PLEASE excuse this little self-indulgence, but today is a rather special day for me, as it is the fifth anniversary of my induction at Christ Church.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years of serving, not just the Anglican Church, but the wider community.
I’ve lost count of the number of weddings, baptisms, funerals, services and visits I’ve conducted in that time.
It’s been a joy and an honour to serve the church and community, to celebrate the beginning of life and it’s passing, and every step in between.
From the moment we first arrived here, Echuca-Moama has felt like home, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see our community so severely affected by the current coronavirus crisis.
So many of our shops are closed, our schools have moved to distance learning, our parks and playgrounds are empty and the warm, welcoming atmosphere of our town feels a distant memory as we now keep our distance and can’t gather together.
Despite all this, I am filled with hope. Although it might take some time, a vaccine will be developed, restrictions will be lifted and life in all its fullness will return again.
But my hope is much deeper than this and grounded in more than just our resilience and community spirit.
We have just celebrated Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus. After his death, Jesus did all sorts of things that defied expectation (and that would be in violation of the current restrictions!)
He visited the disciples in their homes, where they were gathered in groups of more than two.
He went fishing with them and broke bread with them.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that he actually rose from the dead, the ultimate triumph of life over death, of light over darkness, of hope over despair.
In all of these encounters, the first word that Jesus said was ‘Shalom’, which roughly translates ‘Peace’.
I say roughly, because our concept of peace is often just the absence of war or conflict.
But peace is much deeper and richer than that. In our present circumstances we’re constantly told that we’re at war with the virus.
The uncertainty, the fear, the panic that we see and experience are signs of how fleeting and flimsy our sense of peace is.
But the peace that Christ came to bring, the Shalom that he said to his disciples, is one of complete peace, of all being put right, of all being made well and whole.
It is peace with God and through that peace with each other and our world.
Paul puts it well in his letter to the Philippians, when he assures us that Christ has not only risen from the dead but is near to us.
Therefore, he tells us not to worry, but to bring all our needs, our fears and our requests to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
This is the source of my hope, and my joy, my friends. I invite you, whenever you are feeling troubled, by this current crisis or any other, to reach out to God in prayer and to seek his presence and his peace.
George Hemmings, Christ Church Anglican