Pastoral Perspectives

The Rite of Spring

We have moved house nine times in Singapore for various reasons. Each move required packing, unpacking and repacking. Some things moved with us constantly while other things moved depending on the size of the place and my children’s age. Over time, it became quite clear that we could live without many things. So we started sorting out and clearing things that we do not need. But we also realised that we have moved some things with us that we could not bear to throw away for one reason or the other.

It could be a utensil, a decorative piece or a toy that the kids no longer play with. In reality, we do not use it anymore but we continue to move it from one place to another, from one shelf to another, and from one room to another. And so it stays with us, gathering dust. In all honesty, it doesn’t emit joy too.

As Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival as it is called in some parts of the world) approaches, one cannot help but think about how we go through the rituals for the new year. To usher in the season, people wear bright colours; large floral prints and going into this rite of cleaning. It must have been there long before Marie Kondo. Our neighbours have adorned our corridor with new flower pots and flowers blooming in their full glory. What a wonderful sight it is to behold! Even outside NTUC Fair Price stores, artificial flowers line the corridor. They peer at you as if beckoning you to stop by and smell them. Of course they are not real but we end up admiring and buying them anyway. Most of us do not have the luxury of owning our own gardens where we can see flowers bursting forth in their array of colours. But the atmosphere is not far from reality. There is frenzied activity going on. There is buying, there is cleansing and there are preparations. All these for the big reunion.

The reunion dinner very interesting and heart-warming. Many families fly across the globe to be reunited with their families and they look forward to it. Of course, some dread the faces and the queries over the table. I find it interesting because it has many similar overtones with what we believe as Christians. Although the celebration is about nature (spring), for us as believers, it doesn’t end then and there. In our liturgical calendar, the season of Lent will begin a few weeks and soon it will be Good Friday and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). In fact, Easter actually began as a pagan festival celebrating the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Elsewhere, The Rite of Spring is a ballet and orchestral work written by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky described it as “a musical-choreographic work, [representing] pagan Russia … unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring”. Interestingly the first part celebrates the advent of spring and the second part depicts the sacrifice of the chosen young girl.

“Spring festivals with the theme of new life and relief from the cold of winter became connected explicitly to Jesus having conquered death by being resurrected after the crucifixion” writes Carole Cusack. The resurrection of Jesus then, is the first fruits of the glorious spring (new creation). We look forward to the day when God will renew all things.

The Bible has many allusions to the great banquet and the wedding feast at the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, we are preparing ourselves for that great reunion. Just as spring represents newness of life, awakening with energy and enthusiasm brought forth by the warmth of the sun, as believers, we can have newness of life as a result of Christ’s warm love for us. It ‘springs’ from there in every sense of the word. The victory already gained now in Christ’s resurrection and the renewal to come surely have bearings in our lives here and now.

As we go about cleaning our homes, preparing dinner and welcoming people into our homes, perhaps we can take stock of what we carry over year after year. Just as we move things around the house without throwing away what we really do not need, perhaps there are such things in our hearts. Now and then we might have thought about it but never really gotten rid of them. For some, it could be anger, pride, unforgiving spirit, vengeance, hatred etc. It might be still lying there, gathering dust or worse still, eating us and destroying us, impeding new growth in us. We could throw out the things that may not be welcomed at the reunion dinner; that is not in keeping with spring.

We can do it because of the ultimate spring – the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus from death. It means we have the presence and power of Christ in us to change. In 2 Cor 5:17 Paul says ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation (spring!). The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ In keeping with Christ’s death, are there aspects of our character and behaviour that needs to be killed and thrown off? In keeping with Christ’s resurrection, are there aspects of our character and behaviour that needs to be brought to life? As believers, we are able to do so and bear this responsibility not simply because we think we should but because of Christ’s resurrected power that is at work in us.

May others around the table feel the pulse and power of our resurrected Lord in us even as we go about doing our rite(s) of spring and welcome the season.

Pr Loliro Sani

February 3, 2019