Our journey through Matthew’s telling of the parables of Jesus; last Sunday was all about the Kingdom of Heaven. Revd. Jim wrote our last post, and preached for us last Sunday. The parables really are such wonderful stories designed to challenge, irritate, and to invite us into dialogue and relationship, both with God and with our inner selves.
In the benefice we are still slowly working our way through how to “be Church” in these new circumstances, sharing and telling the Good News of God’s love for all people “in season and out of season” as the Ordinal phrases it. When faced with the challenge of changing circumstances and culture, and how to adapt as Christians, it is often said “God doesn’t change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever”. Well, that may be true. But our understanding of God does and indeed should change, as we grow in experience and wisdom.
It strikes me that this season is this kind of time of change. Much against our collective will, and in a way that is most disruptive to our comfort, we are having to look afresh at what Church is, and what faith is, and where God is in the midst of this current mess. I certainly don’t have the answers to this – except to say that wherever things are most challenging, most traumatic, most painful, there we will find God quietly and patiently and lovingly helping us through. Step by painful step, making each next step possible; rejoicing with us at each joy, weeping with us in every sorrow.
The old hymn line from Abide With Me is probably our most common attitude to change:
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I worry about this approach. If we automatically see change as a form of degeneration, then we will resist it with all our might. And rightly so. We long for improvement, for vigour and health and thriving. We do not want to “go gentle into that good night.” Not if we see decay and death as endings and destruction.
But the heart of the Christian gospel is that through death comes resurrection. And that isn’t just some theology or philosophy – that’s how nature works, in one huge, inclusive and perpetual cycle. And more than that, change is inherent in growth. If we are growing, we must change, we must adapt, we must learn. And whilst God may not change, to be human is to grow, and change, and eventually to die and to rise again, renewed.
I say all this because change in the Church is often one of the most painful and challenging things for many. The Church and their faith has been a rock of stability when all else around has been in flux. Now, even this erstwhile rock is adapting to the weather! But take heart – whatever may change on the outside, in appearance or action, as we learn and grow and become, the Divine Love which is at the very core will never change.
The picture I chose for this post (by qinghill on unsplash reminds me of that old Easter hymn:
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.