I have been very conscious as I have driven around some of the country lanes, and indeed merely looked through our windows, that things are growing rapidly. Spring is a lovely time of year. There are signs of new growth everywhere and the garden needs attention!
I always look for signs of new growth in nature and I also look for new growth in a spiritual sense. At the Baptism of a child one of the things that we pledge ourselves to as a Church is that we will seek to encourage in our Church life those things that will help the newly baptised to “Grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Growth is something we should encourage in others and seek for ourselves and creating the conditions for growth in our Church life is as essential as creating the right conditions for plants to flourish. The season of Lent on our Church calendar is one that often provides additional opportunities for such growth there are Lent groups and many people try to find a book that will help their faith to deepen. It is also a time when we can reflect on our own personal journeys and perhaps ask the question, “Am I further along the road than I was?” Alternatively we might simply ask f we feel we have grown in our faith. Jesus was certainly about providing opportunities for people to grow. He came saying, “I am come that you might have life and have it in all its fullness!” Many people grew after coming under his influence in the Bible and many have done so since.
I also reflect though that there are often things growing in the garden that we do not wish to see growing there, or that plants can run riot, stunting the growth of other things or actually growing to the point where they need pruning in order to do better. There are obvious comparisons with our lives! So another question we might ask in Lent is whether or not there are things that are wrong in our lives which need rooting out and eradicating. Jesus gives us the chance and our lives will produce better fruit if with his help, we can get rid of those things. It is not easy, as the great Apostle Paul realised when he said, “The good I would I do not and the evil I would not, that I do!” We know ourselves how we think we have got rid of weeds at times only for them to appear again! Again, let us use the opportunity these closing days of Lent offer so that fresh good growth may be seen as the days grow longer and we are more in the light.
I close by reminding you of lines from an Easter hymn that speak of growth:
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
..Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain
Then your touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our heart that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
May good things grow and flourish in your gardens, your lives and in our Church.
With much love and wishing you a happy Easter.
Your Minister and friend,
PS. From the middle of April to the middle of July I shall be taking a Sabbatical. This is a time of study leave given to Ministers every seven years. During this time pastoral cover will be provided by staff colleagues and activities that I would normally be involved in will be undertaken by others. Ray