Grace and peace to you.
In great mercy God has given us a new birth
into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you.
Through faith you are being protected by God’s power,
for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while
you have had to suffer various trials.
—1 Peter 1.3-5
Various trials. Sure enough. We suffer them. But through them all is God’s steadfast presence, drawing you closer to God, bearing you safely through life as if you’re an infant inside your mother’s womb. God wants only life and blessing for you. No matter what trials life throws your way, God offers love, nothing but love.
Like a mother with her child, God has hopes for us for a gifted and blessed future. God hopes that our lives will be full of love and beauty, strength and joy and grace. God’s hope is not just wishful thinking, but the cosmic energy that creates life. Sure, bad things happen, but God’s will is healing and abundant, blessed life. God’s hope shapes all the energy that affects your life. God always wills healing and transformation, no matter how challenging that transformation may be. God’s promise is a living hope that draws us, bears us, through our various trials to new life.
This is how new birth happens. The birth canal is a difficult place. The womb was safer, more comfortable. But also a place where, if we stayed forever, we’d die. So by God’s grace we go through that awful birth canal, with its awful pushing and squeezing. Sometimes I don’t want to let go of what I have. Sometimes the changes forced on me are uncomfortable, unwelcome, and even seemingly destructive. But in them there is God, giving life.
When I remember God is with me, I remember God’s promise: the gift that is an inheritance. I don’t earn or deserve it; it’s a pure gift, given to me because I am God’s child. It’s like the new life that a baby being born can’t imagine yet—but it’s there, beautiful and full of love and blessing, just waiting for her. When I remember that, then my trials are endurable. I experience the difficult passage more like a birth than a death.
St. Matthew’s goes through various trials. There are things we struggle with, things we lose. We cherish memories of the way it used to be, and dream of re-creating that. But it is of no use to wish to go back: it’s impossible, like a baby going back into the womb. Part of the weariness and despair we sometimes feel is from the futile effort to go back. But God invites us onward, through the painful birth canal, into a new and living hope. What we sometimes resist as unwelcome “change” we can embrace as “new birth” instead.
What is your new hope for St. Matthew’s? What painful birth might we have to go through to receive this new life? Come help me midwife this new life among us. I believe by God’s grace it will be “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”