As servants of the message of hope, we are being asked to make autumn feel like spring.
Andrew Read, Diocesan Director of Education & Mission and Ministry, said these words in a meeting of Rural Deans I attended last week. I found my reaction to them quite extraordinary. Simultaneously I felt pennies drop – as if I were a cartoon character with a light bulb suddenly illuminating over my head.
I like autumn. I like the feel of it: the change from warm to cold, from green to brown, the sense of things renewing as a new academic year begins, and things dying as the natural world prepares itself for winter. We need to let this happen – but find ourselves forced to find an energy that many of us cannot quite muster. The tiredness brought on by the last 18 months is a long-lasting and life-changing phenomenon. It cannot be wiped away by allowing ourselves an extra cup of coffee here and there, or the odd extra day off. We need time to recover, both as individuals and institutions. We need to rediscover our identity as Christians, and as the Body of Christ. When all our energy is taken up with surviving from day-to-day, it is undoubtedly a hard task.
And yet – as Andrew reminds us, we are servants of the message of hope. Which led me to Romans 5, where Paul claims that
suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Suffering does not always produce endurance – it can overwhelm even to the point of no return. But the Apostle is right, surely, when he says that hope does not disappoint, because of the Love which will not let us go?
The story of Jesus offers a way of making sense of our disorientation, with its sacred symphony of life and death re-scored in the coda of cross and resurrection. If we are indeed called to find ‘Easter in Ordinary’ then perhaps our seasonal confusion might even be a gift. As darkness, damp, and death dare to characterize these months, is there nevertheless the distant glow of dawn in a garden, and the mysterious rumble of a stone being rolled away?