It’s that lovely time of year when, for a few hours at least, it is neither too hot or too cold and, if you can find a sunny spot out of the wind, there is nothing better than to sit outside with the sun warming your back. You can drink a cup of coffee, read a book, browse your Facebook or just sit and listen to the birds and other noises of the coming Spring.

The air temperature isn’t much different to winter but the radiant heat from the sun makes it very pleasant and points to milder days to come. Of course, once the sun goes behind a cloud or evening comes we realise it is in fact still Winter.

bud-smallAs Spring approaches, I realise that I have a series of signs that tell me warmer days are ahead. I enjoy keeping an eye out for the first jonquils, the first wattle blossom, the first broken bird’s egg after a strong wind, the blossom on the apricot tree, the first magpie swooping, and of course, budburst in the vineyard. These are the markers of change for me. They give me a sense of progress and hope.

Life is full of cycles. Sunrise and sunset. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The phases of the moon. The ploughing, sowing and reaping of crops.

There are also the little rituals that give us structure, comfort and a sense of hope. The casual ritual of greeting: “Hello, how are you?” – “Good, and you?” The etiquette of shaking hands or giving a kiss on the cheek. Sending greetings for someone’s birthday. Gathering together for weddings, baptisms and funerals. The words and actions of hope, joy and condolence as new lives begin and others end.

These rituals are embedded in our cultures. They remind us of things that we hold to be important and which we value. They reach beyond words to tell us we belong. They link us to each other and provide a foundation for coping with a changing and uncertain world. They remind us that relationships cannot be taken for granted and that care must be taken to nurture and deepen the bonds that unite us.

One of the rituals that people are now questioning the relevance of, is the tradition for our National Parliament to open each day with the Lord’s Prayer.

After the divisive speech by Senator Anning recently,   Labour MP Ed Husic, said, “People ask me because of my Muslim faith, do I have a problem with the Lord’s Prayer at the start of parliament? No, I don’t. When you hear God’s words. They are good words, and in particular “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. … It’s a reminder for us to live a better life that is not mired in the negative, but in something that is better.”

The quality of our parliamentary debates and behaviour are both a cause for sadness, disbelief, and of hope. Always hope. Out of a very divisive speech comes an awareness across the divisions of politics of all that unites us.

This is indeed a time for cultivating hope, courage, joy and love. Why? Because the alternative is despair. To abandon hope, to lose courage, to fail to take joy in the good things of life and to love only those who love us is to allow the world to cave in upon itself. Mistrust and hatred grow when they are fed on the mouldy bread of despair and ill will.

May we choose to believe that hatred is never the last word. May we stand together. Let’s disagree when we must but let’s build a tolerant and inclusive community and believe that the first and last word is love.

This is the gospel, and it’s good news.

Brian Spencer, Minister