I am grateful for the reflections of Revd John Pridmore, formerly a priest in the East End of London, and for the inspiration of God’s presence in the beauty of spring flowers unfolding in gardens and hedgerows around us this week as I was thinking about this bulletin piece.
Yesterday I watched my bees beginning to emerge from winter hibernation and heading off in search of the treasures of newly-opened flowers; I think they have probably discovered the swathes of snowdrops and first crocuses that bless the nearby churchyard. On a fencepost, a robin surveyed the fields while overhead a magnificent kite soared and swooped. These joys of nature are not limited to our beautiful, rural location; cities too are home to flocks of little birds, peregrines nest in ledges of skyscrapers and bees are nurtured in rooftop hives.
But this beauty has a darker side too. Each year, surveys show that our wildlife and wildflower populations are declining; pollution and pesticides threaten the lives of insects, including the bees. Climate change is disrupting the patterns of natural life which are integrated in ways that we still do not fully understand and with far-reaching consequences.
Alongside the environmental concerns are all the many social problems that humans have created by policy and by conflict. This Sunday’s passage from Matthew (6:25-34) is a challenging read, as Jesus tells us not to be anxious or to worry about life, about food or clothing, because God knows we need these things and will provide. Knowing God knows doesn’t seem to make the electricity bill any less, and the number of people having to turn to foodbanks and school breakfast clubs continues to rise. But knowing God knows and has a place for us in his kingdom is a lifeline of spiritual strength for today.
Our readings this week are full of the power and wonder of God’s creation and to the presence of his loving care shown in the detail of the moment as much as to the great sweep of his timeless promise. They invite us to pause and to look with deliberate consideration for how God is present all around us, to look for the beauty – literal and spiritual – with which he blesses us. But our readings also recognise that life is difficult, harsh: creation and ourselves suffering and groaning (Romans 8: 18-23), and that there are troubles today and tomorrow (Matthew 6: 34). Our readings invite us to stop in the midst of this trouble to have confidence that God understands the pain of living and is inviting us take strength from him as he leads us to new life; to take the time to recentre ourselves on the knowledge of this love and care so that we are spiritually refreshed in the face of worry. The glimpses of birds and budding flowers are a reminder of this renewing hope. One day, even as in the photograph here of a park in Kiev, in the war-devastated cities of Ukraine life will be restored.
And the account of creation (Genesis 1-2.3) reminds us that God has given us responsibility for caring and building up his world. In creation and in Christ, God has blessed us so that we may bless each other. So, if we do yearn to strive first for the kingdom of God, God will guide our working together to make the changes today that will ease someone’s troubles tomorrow.
Image – Starling among crocuses in a park in Kiev, Ukraine, photo by Sergei Supinsky, courtesy of NBC News www.nbcnews.com