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Promises, glimpses, firstfruit and new life.

1 month ago

Revd Eleanor Jeans speaks a message of hope into the current cultural climate.

I’m going to be moving in the next couple of months and there is a lot I will miss about being where I am – the people, the church, the community and so on. But one of the other things I will miss is my neighbour’s tree. My neighbour has a beautiful magnolia tree. It is a large tree and has been there for a long time. Every year towards the end of March the tree is covered in the buds of flowers preparing to open.  When I see these flowers, I know that Spring is in the air – colour is arriving once more after the dark and cold winter. Then, once the petals have fallen, leaves will grow, gardens will burst into life, and we will emerge from our homes to feel the sun on our faces. And soon we will be celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus – the gift of new life.  

My neighbour’s tree is a visual aid of the promise of new life – it is a glimpse of what is to come. 

Let’s face it, a lot of the last 2 years has felt like an extended winter, and although we are facing regulation changes and relaxation of rules, there is still a sense of unease around the place, not least with the daily news we are hearing from the other side of Europe. We see the fragility of life around us through war, disaster, famine and disease.These magnolia flowers are fragile too – they don’t stay on the tree very long. Most years I’m surprised at how quickly they go, especially if it is windy. Yet they are a glimpse into what is to come. Even in these times, as with my neighbour’s tree, there are glimpses of new life around us.  I don’t know what is happening in your church, but here we have seen a growth in the numbers coming along to Alpha courses, people walking into our church building and asking questions because the last two years have made them wonder what life is about. I recently watched Stacey Dooley spend 10 days in a convent because the pandemic made her want to find out more about faith. 

There are glimpses all around us. Yet it is so easy to look past them!

As I think of these things, I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verses 22 and 23

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

It’s not difficult to see how the whole of creation has been groaning recently. And is still groaning. Yet, Paul reminds us that we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The Spirit of God, who we are reminded in the following verses gives us hope, who helps us in our weaknesses and who intercedes for us. This Spirit is a deposit, a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22) of what is to come.  This Spirit is a pledge that we will know salvation in Jesus. This Spirit is a glimpse of life in Him  - new life!

Interestingly, in these verses in Romans, the groaning those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit are doing is about awaiting redemption. I often think of groaning as a negative sound, but here it is something far more positive – eagerly waiting – what is to come.  We, like creation, groan, but we have the gift of the Spirit.

And so I want to encourage you over these coming weeks, as we see life bursting from creation around us, to be reminded of the firstfruits of the Spirit which gives us a promise of a new life in Him. Let’s also try not to look past the glimpses of God at work, a sign that new life is coming.




"Almost tearful joy at hearing what I've tried to share for fifty years, put so much better and explained so well"
Peter Ward at Living Word Carlisle 2019

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