Faith, Hope and Love
Faith, Hope and Love
The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO | Archbishop
Paul’s final words to the Christian community in 1 Thessalonians are words of encouragement, urging them toward peace together in the love of Jesus, and to thanksgiving and prayer, in every circumstance of their common life.
Now, all these centuries later, prayer remains one of the most used words in the Christian lexicon, and prayer is central in all we do - following Jesus, walking as he walked, faithfully trusting God’s love in every circumstance. So it is that these words of St Paul to that early church have life and agency for us here and now as we stand at the beginning of a new year. The pattern then remains the pattern for us now: ‘admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint hearted, assist the weak, be patient toward all, see that none of you repays anyone evil for evil, always aspire to what is good for one another and for all.’ And if most of us don’t know this sentence off by heart, we can effortlessly recite the next: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
As 2020 drew to a close, I was fully aware that every parish and school we bishops had been with, were praying week in and week out, daily, sometimes hourly for people all over the world living and dying in the pandemic.
Now we are giving thanks for vaccines already being rolled out in some places, and looking to be close in others. We give thanks for leaders acting to slow opportunity for virus transmission, and for every person on the front line of medical aid and care, asking God’s loving protection and mercy in their work, in their emotional and physical fatigue. Like the infant church of Thessalonika, the church here in Perth is faithful in prayer, praying that vaccines will be equitably available and effective, and that people of faith will not hesitate in trusting their efficacy. The Spirit of God, after all, is at work in human science, and in every healing act whether or not individual agents acknowledge this truth.
The beginning of a new year doesn’t mark the end of our prayer, or the faith and hope and love we know in Jesus, even though we in WA may have become a bit complacent. We have been a bit relaxed in our COVID safe practices, sitting a little closer to each other, by- passing the hand sanitiser, forgetting the elbow touch in favour of kissing or shaking hands again, secure in our little bubble.
Breathing a collective sigh of relief, some of us started making interstate travel plans, booking family reunions and work meetings, as if things were getting back to normal. Last week’s sudden lockdown stopped us in our tracks, bringing a jolting halt to any dreams that back to normal, or business as usual, is currently the way for the world or the church. Certainly not yet, perhaps never.
Lockdown and bushfires have again brought us to our knees, carrying us more deeply into prayer and action, into commitment to one another, responsibility for sisters and brothers, neighbours and strangers. Giving thanks in all circumstances means being honest about the real state of things, living with things as they are, lending a hand wherever we can, sure of God’s closeness in bad times as well as good, even in the face of darkness and terrible loss.
It might be worth reflecting that by no efforts of our own, we are in fact better poised to begin together our annual Lent journey to Easter than we would like to be, perfectly poised to encourage the faint-hearted, assist the weak, be patient toward all, seeing that none of us repays anyone evil for evil, always aspiring to what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Look each day for the one thing for which you can give thanks, remember before God the world and its needs, pray for those who live close to trauma, and for God’s healing and renewing love for everyone without exception. Do all this, and don’t fail to notice the fresh green shoots of new life in your path.