Assistant Rector's House, April 2000
On the first Wednesday in Lent a few of us met to celebrate communion in the Seminar Room of the St Peterís Centre. At eight oíclock in the morning it was cold and grey outside. We read the Old Testament story of Adam and Eveís disobedience, their fall from grace, and in the Gospel heard how Jesus lamented the stupidity and waywardness of the people of Jerusalem who persecuted Godís prophets. It all felt very Lenten and penitential.
And the people we could see through the window - making their way to work in offices or shops, rushing frantically to the station, or slowly and reluctantly starting another unpromising day - all looking down, not up - almost all wearing greys and blacks and dark colours - they contributed to the general down-beat feel.
At the time of intercession we were sitting looking out through the glass, silently praying for the life of the city, when suddenly there appeared a group of little schoolchildren, perhaps five or six year olds, with their teachers. They crossed the Square from Exchange Walk and marched off out of sight down past M&S, chattering nineteen to the dozen, excited, and each carrying a large bunch of bright, yellow daffodils!
The contrast was wonderful. The children made us smile and forget seriousness for a moment; they gave a sign of hope that all is not gloom and guilt. I donít know where they were going, or who the flowers were for, but they gave a foretaste of that Easter hope which we usually wait to proclaim at the end of Lent, but which actually suffuses all of life - though so often we see only brief glimpses.
The same thought came into my mind a few days later in the very different surroundings of Wilford Hill Crematorium. That was also a grey day, and standing outside after the service it was especially cold standing on the top of the hill, surrounded by the wreaths and bouquets of those whose funerals had taken place that day. So often wreaths speak of finality and loss and are essentially seen as symbols of sadness. But that day it suddenly hit me just how gloriously hopeful they were in their beauty and colour; they were not symbols of sadness, but signs of ongoing human love, which gave the promise of an eternity held in the love of God.
I am writing this at a time when Lent has still some way to go and Easter is more than a month away. I donít however feel there is a hard choice to be made, between writing about Lent or Easter, because the two are inextricably linked. Yes, we especially remember and celebrate with great joy, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, each year on Easter Day. And shall do so again this year.
But the Resurrection throws its light backwards and forwards into time, at any time of the year, often at the most unexpected of moments. The glorious hope of new life can spring up even amongst the greyest or blackest of situations. God keeps showing us new possibilities when we thought there were only old ways; he sheds new light on difficult parts of the past; and opens new roads for the future when we thought they were all blocked.
We see the presence of our Risen Christ in the happiness of children carrying gifts though the busyness and tensions of the city; in the love and hope for the future shown in the flowers of the bereaved; and wherever people work for peace or freedom, continuing to rise up against all the odds, in situations of hatred; and wherever faithful companions go on caring for infirm loved ones, surmounting their own frailty over and over again; andÖ
Lent is the time when we prepare again to be challenged by the stories of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day. As Lent moves onwards (as Spring progresses), itís a time when we may become ever more sensitive to see the patterns of dying and rising, of light shining out of darkness, of despair giving way to hope to new life, which are at the heart of our resurrection faith.
Sensitive to all this, the glorious story of Christís victory over death will have ever richer meaning.