Dear Friends

Dear Friends

Written address from our Minister Revd. Dr. David Pickering.

A Season of Transformation

Dear Friends,

A few years ago (quite a few) transformer toys were ‘in’. These had the ability to ‘transform’ through a few twists from one form to another, such as a car turning into an action figure. Perhaps you remember them?

In his childhood, aged around six, our son Jamie became fascinated by transformers, and on one occasion challenged me to make one with him in our garage. He provided a brief too. The transformer should be able to turn from a car to a boat to a plane. Further, the car should be able to drive, the ship should be able to sail and the plane should actually fly – and as if that wasn’t demanding enough, they should be of sufficient scale that we could both get inside and use them!

Jamie had both trust and expectation. Trust that we could, together, really make such a creation in a morning equipped with a saw, hammer and a handful of nails, and an expectation that we would succeed! Quite a challenge for me, a rookie DIYer. Come to think of it, a significant challenge for a NASA-qualified engineer!

Transformation can be found in all sorts of places, from toys to nature (think of the cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly), and people, too.

Transformation involves change – often to the wholly unexpected. Think of the butterfly cycle again!

In this Easter season, we are particularly mindful of the transformation as Jesus rises from the dead, and the consequent transformation of the lives of his followers.

Think of Thomas, who knew of the reality of the crucifixion, but wasn’t present with the other ten disciples on Easter evening when Jesus appeared amongst them. Thomas, forever known as Doubting Thomas, though I prefer the term, questing Thomas, is a figure who some many relate to, for he struggled to believe his friends. He told them that unless he, too, saw the mark of the nails in the hands of Jesus and touched them, he couldn’t believe. I wonder if Thomas was seeking certainty, rather than exploring in faith.

A week later, and Jesus appeared again to the disciples; this time Thomas was present. Jesus, knowing what was in the heart of Thomas, invited him to put his hands in the nails’ scars, so that he would no longer doubt, but believe. John doesn’t relate what Thomas did, but rather what he said, for Thomas responded with the confession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God’. Jesus responded: ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

There is an ongoing tension between knowledge, certainty, faith and perspective.

Many seek knowledge and certainty, but faith may be nurtured by prayerfully grappling for insight, questioning the Bible stories, asking what they may have meant at the time in which they were set, and how they may speak to us today, in our lives and context.

Faith based just on rational, provable events reduces God to facts and figures, which neither feels an attractive God to worship, nor a path to the life in fulness which Jesus spoke of.

Rather, real life is found when faith is allowed to transform life. Faith based on Jesus’ life and ministry around Galilee or Jesus who suffered and died on the cross, is only part of the story. His resurrection shows the whole story in new light, imbues it with new meaning, which allows followers to trust in the face of doubts. The response of Jesus to Thomas is as much for you and me: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We learn later that Thomas did have his life transformed – from being a disciple who followed Jesus to an apostle who told of his good news.

Looking around the world today we may sense that there is as much if not more need for transformation than in the time of Jesus.

One example that scientists cite is that humanity needs to rapidly transform our lives and economy from burning fossil fuels, and embrace alternative and greener sources of energy, in order to avoid some of the worst consequences of global warming and climate change.

I wonder what other facets of life and the world you would wish to see transformed? Perhaps the costs of living and the growing impoverishment of many of the most vulnerable in our nation?

I wonder, too, what transformation Jesus would urge today? What transformation might nurture the coming of God’s Kingdom?

The Easter season is about transformation of life. About glimpsing or experiencing the seemingly impossible and wholly unexpected – resurrection. Resurrection isn’t an armchair sport, something to be observed with curiosity – it reveals what God has done, points to what God can do and invites a response.

So how did Jamie and I get on in the garage?

I tried to deflect his plan, but he wasn’t having it, so we headed into the garage. Thankfully, Jamie was content to make something much less ambitious – a nest box for birds. After much banging, sawing and smiles a veritable ‘avian des res’ was constructed and erected. Jamie was happy. He’d had some father/son time away from his sisters, wielding tools that were normally tucked away. I was relieved and the local robin population had another option.

I reflected later on a lesson from Jamie’s request… however daunting the issue is, it is better to make a start, however modest the action – it is the path to transformation and a better life. May you know God’s blessing in this transformative season.

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Holy Saturday

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