Retreat at Home Week 2 - Spring

Week 2 SPRING

God has brought you out of darkness, into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Spring, from The Seasons’ Benedictions.
Taken from After Prayer, Malcolm Guite
With each unfolding seed, with every spring,
He breathes the rumour of his resurrection,
As birdsong calls your hidden heart to sing.
So may this season be his benediction,
To lift your love, and bid your prayer take wing,
To thaw your frozen hope, to warm your mind,
For spring has come! Can heaven be far behind?

A Reading Isaiah 35

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing…

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God. … He will come and save you.’

 

Then … waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; …it shall be for God’s people; ... And the ransomed of the Lord shall return…with singing;…they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

A Story

This story is told in Mark Buchanan’s book, and it is about Antwone Fisher, a film.

The man whose story it tells was a profoundly troubled youth, raised and abused in foster homes. When he has grown up a psychiatrist encourages him to go on a journey to seek his mother. He finds her, but the reunion is brief and awkward. She is bewildered by him, and he returns sadder than before. But he doesn’t return to his former home, instead he returns to the home of his aunty, who he discovered on his search for his mother. While he has been meeting his mother, his aunty has assembled every single relative she could find, and he walks from room to room discovering nieces, brothers, sisters, grandparents everywhere, and they are all surrounded by food. Antwone has found food for the hunger he has been suffering from in his heart; he longed for love from his mother, but instead he has found love from relatives almost beyond number. This is Springtime of the Heart with its new possibilities.

In St John the Evangelist Merrow we have a stained-glass window in the Prayer area, it depicts Jesus holding out a loaf of bread – ‘I am the bread of life’. Many of us have found that building to be a place where we have found our souls and hearts nourished and fed. Spend time today reflecting on new creation, thawing and Spring.

A Reflection

Isaiah doesn’t speak about Spring, but it does describe transformation. Imagine a desert turning into a garden, imagine a dark patch of soil turning into a flower bed filled with a riot of colour. Although at the beginning of Spring we can’t see that, if we remember that Jesus said he came to earth so that we would live life in all its fullness, then we can also remember that he gave us hope. This hope of a better life is what Jeremiah was talking about in Chp 29:11, and it speaks about the plans God has for us, plans which involve hope.

Picture those time lapsed sequences on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth documentary series: a forest that moves from the bony starkness of winter to the pastel softness of spring, then on to the verdant lushness of summer and the wild mosaic of autumn. It is that reality and the same time that hope which Isaiah captures in Chapter 35, and this is Spring in the heart. This is the time when it starts to feel like something is shifting, God is on the move, our hearts are thawing, there is some light breaking into the darkness.

Another image which might chime with you is the CS Lewis Narnia image – if you have seen the film then it is even easier to imagine. Winter is the perennial season and the whole land lives in its icy grip following a curse. Then the children hear the mysterious, thrilling news that Aslan is on the move, and what he has planned will change everything.

As I write this reflection, it feels like Springtime of the heart in many ways:

There are glimpses of hope and possibilities and the new creation is beginning to burst forth from the deadness of lockdown. The colours are starting to come back into life: I hear the sounds of the cricket club from my window, and the birds are devouring the peanuts in the feeder.

When have you been in this Season of the Heart? When have you been able to see new possibilities and stand on the precipice of a new dawn or new beginnings. If that is not you right now, then keep strong, and hold fast to that hope.

Romans 8 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

A Spiritual Exercise

As well as hope, Spring comes with expectation; we expect God to show up, the world feels fresh and ripe with possibilities. This is the time to use that life and enthusiasm and establish some spiritual practices, or holy habits.

One way of doing this is to write a Rule of Life. This might include how many times a day you will pray, read the Bible, go on a retreat, writing regularly in a journal and it can expand to include other ways of behaving and values impacting your life.

The Northumbrian Community writes about their experience of developing the Rule of Life of their Community: “our Rule developed out of this life already being lived. In effect it was a written response to the many people who were asking what was central to our hopes and dreams, and what were the values and emphases that reflected the character and ethos of our way for living. By a process of trial and error we found we were learning to live the questions as well as ask them: How then shall we live? Who is it that you seek? How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Living these questions, rather than providing pat answers that effectively ended the quest, actually became lifeblood for the Community. We discovered the reality of Rowan Williams’ statement that ‘Christ indeed answers our questions; but he also questions our answers.’

So, the exercise for Springtime is to ponder whether you can write a Rule of Life which answers the question ‘How then shall we live.’?

Prayer

Renewal

Lord God that art the first and the last
Grant me a new beginning – A new desire to pray
And new resolution for setting apart the hours for speech with thee:
          New ambition in prayer
That it may be humbler, quieter, void of self,
All to thy glory; new vision of the light,
Which is beyond brightness and above joy:
          New listening for thy counsel and command,
Acceptance of thy will, fervour to obey it,
Patience and strength to suffer for it:
          New union and communion with his Holy Spirit
That I pray his mind and he my prayer.

O Lord who on the throne of thrones makes all things new,
Renew my prayer, Renew me in thyself, And hold me there.

Hymns

I encourage you to listen to, or even sing one of these hymns as you reflect.

Lord of all hopefulness

All my hope on God is founded.

Great is Thy Faithfulness