You can hear Bishop Andrew’s sermon by clicking below:
It is funny how coincidences happen, when you’re actively listening out for God’s voice…
To launch our 50-year celebrations, Bishop Andrew kindly came to All Saints to lead our main Easter service. He told us the story of two bulbs, Daff and Dil. Daff, a “Floreal” pin-up, was too vain to submit to being put into the earth with the old vegetable peelings and the horse poo (yes – shock, horror; the Bishop did actually use that word!), while her humbler sister Dil allowed herself to be placed into the dark hole by the Gardener. Dil eventually flourished, whilst Daff stubbornly remained in the shed each year, dry and desiccated, refusing the Gardener’s persistent offer to be planted, until a passing squirrel finally took her off.
Funnily enough, our curate Pippa had used the planting of anemone bulbs at Messy Church the day before to illustrate the same point about death and resurrection.
And both of these, the week after our family trip to Holland, where we saw the most glorious tulips ever:
“How do they fit in to this blog post?” you may well ask… Two years ago (to the day) I received a cancer diagnosis, just as my pots of tulips began to flower better than ever before. The blossoming of a particularly beautiful spring that year felt simultaneously cruel (the concept of growth is not pleasant for someone with a tumour) and comforting (life carries on; it’s not all armageddon). Thanks to excellent medical treatment, I certainly didn’t die, but clearly, having cancer is a profoundly life-changing experience. Even if you wanted to, the clock can never be turned back to those blithe days pre-cancer. Despite the scars, though, many of us in the Cancer Club would agree that the spiritual transformation is often a good one. You come to value the gift of life much more than before and to appreciate that love is all that matters.
And so it is with the Christian life, too: you start out with some knowledge of God’s love which you take on trust and everything seems to be going fine. Then all of a sudden, there seems to be a marshalling of dark forces and it’s as if you’re in a tiny boat being tossed about on tumultuous seas at the mercy of one calamity after another. Of course, none of it compares to the tremendous war between Good and Evil that Jesus fought – and won – for us on the cross. So, in waging your little battles, you know that if you can just hold on and get through the desolation, on the other side is the deepening of faith, the resurrection or rebirth, the life after death. And just as you come out of your small skirmishes with darkness and mature a bit in your faith, basking in the light once more, God deploys you yet again in his cosmic fight, so then the process repeats itself all over again – like the cycles of the seasons. But all the time, like the perennials you nurture year by year in your garden, you are growing!
Bishop Andrew talked of how plants can become pot-bound if they are not planted deeply in the rich, dark soil. People and churches, too, can become pot-bound. My prayer for my beloved All Saints’ is that now we are in a period of real growth! That means stretching out our roots faithfully into the darkness and no doubt circumnavigating the odd seam of rock here or there in our path. It will involve some careful risk-taking and some prayerful feeling of our way…