Dear Family of St John’s

Last week I had the opportunity to do one of my all-time favourite things. I cuddled a baby.  This little guy was only two weeks old.  He still smelled new… although I suspect his mom had changed his nappy before I arrived!  I loved the cuddle so much I almost forgot that baby’s dad had made me a fabulous coffee. That’s how much I love cuddling babies.  I was very reluctant to leave, but I think mom and dad might have reached the point where they were wondering if I’d ever hand back their child.

And then, on the weekend I attended a baby shower.  Another one of my favourite things! We measured the diameter of the mom’s tummy, we oohed and aahed over the tiny baby clothes. Every mom there expressed amazement at how tiny the clothes were.  We forget how small brand-new babies are.

And, we prayed blessings over the new mom and her unborn baby, over the family she and her husband are starting. The prayers were heartfelt and expressed all the hope we have for the future of this child and the family he’s being born into.  We showered our love on this new mom. And, it was beautiful.

These two experiences within a few days of each other have made me think.  What is it about babies, pregnant moms, and little children that I love so much.  Why do I get so much joy from being around them? It’s not just me, I don’t think.

And I started thinking about other things that bring me that level of joy.  A huge thunderstorm and pelting rain, followed by the quiet, and the freshly washed smell of a ‘clean’ garden. Seeing a rainbow after the rain never fails to fill me with joy.

Sitting outside in the early morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and watching the day wake up, listening to the birds. The smell of a new book, that fresh new-page smell is almost as good as the smell of coffee!

The conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s about new life, the beginning of something that has the potential to be wonderful.  But, more than that, it’s about the hope that this new life, the beginning, brings.

Did you know that the motto for Port Elizabeth talks about hope?  ‘Tu Meliora Spera’ translates as an instruction… ‘You Hope for Better Things’.  Isn’t that what we do as followers of Jesus?

I love this passage from 1 Peter 1:3-9 which expresses the reason for the hope that we have.

Praise to God for a living hope

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”(NIVUK)

No matter what the world throws at us, we can live each day with hope. Because of Jesus’ promises.  We have been born again as Christians.  We might not all look as cute as the two-week old I cuddled, but we can have that new beginning, the fresh start. We have the hope that comes with new life.  We have the hope of wonderful things to come, better things.

Sometimes the day-to-day problems that we face cause us to forget.  They dull the joy that this hope should bring. And then, we have the opportunity to do something that reminds us, like cuddling a baby.  We’re reminded of the new beginning that we have in Jesus, every day.  We’re reminded that there is so much to be hopeful for. We’re reminded that part of our job is to share that hope and joy with others.

And so, I encourage you to reflect on the things that bring you joy. What reminds you of the hope we have in the life that Jesus offers?  Why not spend some time doing those things in the week to come.  And, share that joy and hope with someone else.

With love

Your friend and rector