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"The former things have come to pass and now I declare new things to you."
Easter is about endings and beginnings, about an absence that became a presence, about something that transformed not just a group of fearful followers but the whole world. The words of Isiah (see above) spoke powerfully to the people of Israel returning from exile 500 years before Christ. The early church found those same words spoke to them about the life & ministry of Jesus, and those same words have a particular resonance for us this morning as we baptise little Lyra, celebrate the joy of resurrection, and as I formally cease being your Rector after 14 wonderful years.
Today I formally resign as Rector so that the process of appointing my successor can officially begin, although I remain as Archdeacon of London & priest-in-charge until August. Former things have come to pass, and new things are now being declared. I would like to talk to you about what God might be telling newly-baptised Christians such as Lyra, old Rectors such as me, and all those in between, about former things and new things.
Through Isaiah, and through the Resurrection, God speaks about Change. God does that a lot because change is built into nature and into life. Spiritually God calls us to lives that grow and explore and discover new things, in other words to change. From the very beginnings of our faith, from the day Abraham answered God's call and changed his life forever by going off into the unknown, change has been built into the life of faith. The Resurrection calls us to find Jesus in the midst of life and follow him into new places.
Of course not every change is good, some things are not of God. But in spite of that, make no mistake, God changes things. Former things pass away, new things are declared. Change happens, its God's way.
The issue for us in times of change is to hold on to the fundamentals. Whether it is a baby - Lyra - entering into the life of faith or me changing the focus of 40 years of full-time priestly ministry, or St Bride's changing leaders after 14 years, the issue is the same. Be faithful. Hold fast to God: maintain an enquiring heart: the spirit to know and love God, and the gift of wonder at God's handiwork.
Change can be scary, but God's Kingdom values don't change. The degree to which we are in touch with those kingdom values and live them out in our personal lives and our church life is the degree to which we need not fear change. That's time for me, for this child, little Lyra, and for this parish.
Letting former things pass away while new things are being declared is hard, because change is difficult whether we are children growing up or adult people adjusting to new circumstances or old Rector's retiring. But it helps to remember the things we are a part of that don't change.
Our mission at St Bride's remains constant. We shall continue to meet together for worship, we will sing and play and share the word of God, we will celebrate the Eucharist, we will support one another, as Easter pilgrims, learning to do the work of the Kingdom. God expects no less of us, because Christianity is not a spectator sport, it is something we get stuck into and do. As long as we are doing our faith, living it out in the joy of the Resurrection and the power of the spirit we need fear nothing, and we can expect a great deal.
Easter is about endings and beginnings, about a terrible absence - Jesus' death - becoming a wonderful and life - changing presence. So Easter is all about change. Let us all pray for some of that Easter spirit to fill us and strengthen us, that we may together look to the future with confidence and hope.