Easter 4

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Readings

Acts 2.42-47
1 Peter 2.19-25
John 10.1-10

Key Thought

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Text

Hi, I’m Fr Tim Williams, Team Rector of Kidderminster West.

I love watching cookery programmes and in this lockdown I’ve found some new recipes which I’ve tried with varying success. I also watch the cookery programmes the recipes from which I wouldn’t stand a chance of recreating. One such series is the Great British menu. Chefs put together a menu inspired, this year, by children’s books. They compete to have their dishes included in a banquet. 

One of the inspirational books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It tells the story of Mary Lennox, an unwanted and unloved little girl, born to British parents in India. Mary was a “sickly, fretful, ugly little baby”, who was kept out of the way of her parents as far as possible and who turned into a “sickly, fretful” toddler, spoiled by the servants who cared for her in order to keep her quiet. By the time Mary was six she was “tyrannical and selfish”. When Mary’s parents and all the servants died during a cholera epidemic, Mary was sent to live in England with her uncle, Archibald Craven, at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire. By the end of the novel, Mrs Medlock, the head of the servants, is describing Mary as “downright pretty” and “healthy looking” with “a bright colour”. So how does this character become so much more agreeable by the end of the novel? How does the author achieve such a transformation in Mary?

Misselthwaite Manor a sprawling old estate with over one hundred rooms, most of which have been shut up by Archibald Craven. A man whom everyone describes as miserable. Craven has been in a state of inconsolable grief ever since the death of his wife ten years before the novel begins. Not long after arriving, Mary heard about a secret garden from one of the servants, Martha Sowerby. This garden belonged to Mary’s late aunt. After she died, Archibald locked the garden door and buried the key. When she heard about it, Mary became determined to find it. In order to do this, she had to get outside and engage with the world. She made friends with Old Ben the gardener, Dickon and Susan Sowerby who lived on the moor, and a robin who helped her to find the key to the secret garden. Next she started to tend the garden with the help of her friends. But the garden was not the only discovery Mary made. She also discovered that she had a cousin, Colin, who had been bedridden since birth. Colin’s father couldn’t bear to look at him because Colin reminded him of his wife. As a result, Colin had become a spoilt hypochondriac. Mary now became a transformative presence in Colin’s life, taking him to enjoy the secret garden, introducing him to the friends she had made and, with their encouragement, he learnt to walk.

When the children passed through the door into the secret garden their lives began to be transformed. In choosing to pass through this gateway, they were committing to a new way of life. Here is Colin’s reaction when Mary and Dickon took him through the doorway and into the garden for the first time: 

“… in wonder Mary and Dickon stood and stared at him he looked so strange and different because a pink glow of colour had actually crept all over him – ivory face and neck and hands and all. ‘I shall get well! I shall get well!’ he cried out… ‘And I shall live for ever and ever and ever!’” 

This is what Jesus promises us if we choose to go through the gate: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Our decision to pass through the gate into Jesus’ care requires a commitment by us as described in today’s first reading from Acts, where we hear that the men and women of the early Church lived and ate and worshipped together “with glad and generous hearts”. If we choose to live in fellowship with those who believe in Jesus, our faith and commitment are rewarded. Being inside the sheepfold, choosing a gateway to fellowship, will have a transformative influence on our own lives too, enriching us.

This isn’t possible at the moment and I know how much people Ive spoken to are missing the fellowship. Its great that we can join together virtually. But after all this is l over there will be a new normal and no doubt we’ll do things differently but I think there’s no substitute for human contact and coming together if we can -taking church out to those who can’t.

Through the transformative decision to pass through the gateway into the secret garden, Mary Lennox and Colin Craven become healthier, happier, more lovable children. By living out the Gospel. Jesus promises us life, and wants us to live our lives to the full. As in the example of Mary and Colin, described in The Secret Garden, and in the example of the men and women of the early Church, described in Acts, this doesn’t mean having and doing whatever we want. I think over the past weeks we’ve rediscovered that Far from shutting ourselves away from one another, Christianity is about living in fellowship, sharing and caring for one another, with gladness and generosity.

How can we, as the children of God, achieve the same transformation as Mary and Colin? 

How do we, especially in adversity, share God’s love and care for one another?


Page last updated: 4th May 2020 2:10 PM
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