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From the Goldfields: Feather

by The Revd Elizabeth J Smith | Senior Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields

Sometimes in the park I find a big feather, a flight feather, something from a wing or a spreading tail, glossy black or calm grey. More often it is smaller, downy, a puff of breast feather, white, or with a tinge of green or pink to give me a clue about the bird that used to wear it.

I wonder whether the bird lost it through preening, its own beak scratching away at a dusty spot or a biting bug. Or perhaps there was a squabble, with parrots or galahs shrieking at each other in competition or love-making, making the feathers fly.

Each feather, whether fluffy or sleek, is a miracle of nature’s engineering. It is designed for aerodynamics and warmth, waterproofing and dustproofing, and for the colourful beauty that tells the other birds: I’m here! I’m one of your flock! It is proverbially light, just a wisp of near-nothing, yet strong enough to help its owner get airborne.

The lone feather is evidence that a bird was here, not so long ago. That even after dark, or on a hot, hot day, there are birds all around, sleeping in hollow trees or sheltering in the shade. I will never be able to catch a wild bird to look into its shining eye and stroke its miraculous plumage. But I can bend down into the dust and pick up a stray feather, and consider its former owner.

So it is with resurrection. Those folded cloths in the empty tomb were evidence that a body had been there, not so long ago. That somewhere, in the pink and grey light of early morning, there was a man walking in the garden, a man who had died a cruel death but was now alive again and waiting to speak to his friend, Mary.

Mary, and a few hundred others, all those years ago, saw not just the empty tomb and its discarded cloth bindings, but also their risen friend in all his strange glory. I do not see him in the risen flesh, but I believe Mary and those other women, and Peter and Thomas and Paul and those other men, who did see and touch and eat with him. And I look around me every day for resurrection feathers, evidence that Jesus Christ was here, and not so long ago.

Each time I see a flash of hope, colour glinting through a dark world, I know that death is not the last word. Whenever I draw a breath in wonder at a child’s wide smile, at a friend’s generosity, at a joyful work of art, I know that love is stronger than death. When I hear the stories of hard-won change in people’s lives, of their courage to take the right risks, of the sacrifices they are making to be life-givers, I know that Jesus Christ, the Lord, is risen indeed. He may be hidden from us, but the feathers of resurrection are everywhere, for those with eyes to see.

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