Letter from John Spiers, Associate Priest - September 2018
Then suddenly the weather changed. The country had baked in hot sunshine for weeks. With only a few days warning, on the last weekend in July, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and the heavens opened. Little is constant in this world. We establish our patterns of living only to find them disturbed by events outside our control. The Sunday afternoon barbeque planned on the assumption of yet another sun-ny day was eaten under cover as water dripped from the gazebo.
A barbeque eaten undercover rather than one eaten in warm sunshine should not be too upsetting. But often our lives can move through a range of emotions. One day we experience sadness, the next day joy. At times we are despairing but then we find hope. We seek happiness but are disap-pointed. In early September how fresh is that euphoria which swept the country as England had their best run in the World Cup since 1996 during our sunniest summer since 1976? How are Greece and California recovering from the wildfires that raged through settlements causing death and destruction?
The Christian message is one of love and of hope. This is an optimistic mes-sage, a message that accepts the sadness, despair and disappointment in the world but sees them through the lens of the Easter story, a story of triumph over deep despair and sadness. We can only begin to imagine the feelings of those early disciples as the three euphoric years following Jesus the miracle worker are crushed by the crucifixion which in turn is replaced by the immense hope of the resurrection on Easter Day.
These themes of brokenness and hope were brought in to a modern focus for me recently when I read an interview. The interviewee was Patrick Regan, CEO of Kintsugi Hope. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, so creating beauty from brokenness. After building a charity, XLP, that supports disadvantaged children and young adults, Patrick and his wife Diane went through a very difficult time in their lives, part of which involved him having major reconstructive surgery to his legs. Through opening up about their struggles they realised how many people have felt alone in theirs and the great need for each of us to be vulnerable, open and honest when life is hard. Only when this happens can healing start to take place. They founded Kintsugi Hope to create safe and supportive spaces for those experiencing mental and emotional health challenges.
Patrick believes that God is not at all scared of our honesty. Our relationship with God should be one of honesty, being open through prayer of how we are feeling. However what really resonated with me in the interview was Patrick’s challenge to trust in God through life’s up and downs, living lives with thankful hearts, even in the toughest of times. Undoubtedly we will experience the emotional highs and lows of life but we do need to try to have hope. Hope gets us through those dips in life. For Patrick, though, hope is not a fleeting emotion, a feeling that is with us one day but has gone the next. Instead he believes that hope is a choice that we make. We can choose to be hopeful. Choosing to be a Christian means choosing to be hopeful because that is the message of the empty cross.
At times we can dwell too long in despair and we have the need to be hopeful. But being hopeful is not being so optimistic about life that we think eve-rything will work out without us doing anything about it. That is the way to false optimism and a deepening sense of despair. Being hopeful means working out what the little things are that we can do which can get us out of the situations that weigh us down. People who are in debt may buy a lottery ticket, in the hope that they will win millions on the lottery. The odds are that this is unlikely to solve their debt problems. Going to a debt advice charity and working out a budget will create a realistic picture of what can be done and create some real hope to build on; hope that the cycle of debt can be broken.
The Christian faith will not solve debt problems but it does provide a framework for our lives that can build hope. This hope will help us through the toughest of times if, as Patrick Regan says, we put our trust in God
Reverend John Spiers