I have a friend who makes a habit of rearranging her furniture. Like many of you, her home is of modest size and she has limited items in it. Every couple of months, some room or rooms will be altered, perhaps something as minor as turning a table, shifting a mirror, or rearranging pictures, perhaps something much larger, as when the passing of summer led to significant change in the outdoor area.
I continue to be surprised by the freshness these changes bring, no matter how small. Excitement comes as I discover a new set of relationships between the furniture. At the same time there is the stability and comfort of the familiar.
How do we combine freshness with familiarity?
This is a question I wrestle with every week as I prepare the sermon for Sunday. The Bible readings are always familiar. I know what has been said about them in the past, the traditional interpretations, which are easy and comforting, reassuring us of God’s abiding presence and call. At the same time, I face the reality of an infinite God, whose Word is ever-shifting, like the colours of an opal, and so I ask myself what excitement, what new word of life, lies waiting in our readings.
Consider, for instance, the parables, which will be cropping up frequently in the readings at this time of year. A parable usually takes some scene or story line very familiar to the people around Jesus, and then gives it a new twist. We listen as Jesus talks about seeds that pretty much grow by themselves or only with God’s help, and we are comforted to be reminded that we can replace our anxiety about outcomes with trust in God. Then we are confused to learn that the seed is that of a weed. What does that imply about faith? Our readings from the Hebrew Bible around now are telling parts of the story of King David, who was a person of great faith and at the same time, the perpetrator of several very unpleasant acts.
Freshness or familiarity? Rarely in life do we get to choose one thing or another. In so many areas, we must try to balance opposites and to live in the space between two conflicting ideals. In our life as a congregation at Scots, how do we balance being a welcoming congregation, open to visitors, with nurturing our life as a community? How do we balance outreach with care for our buildings? How do we maintain a spiritual focus and at the same time deal realistically with material and financial security? How do we balance loyalty to the rich traditions of the past with the need to express these traditions in ways relevant to our changing society?
There are no easy answers to such questions – I am tempted to say no answers at all. Any answer we give will only be for a time and a season.
All this leads to a suggestion for this month. Make a change in your home. Rearrange something. At present, I am rearranging my bookcases. This is no mean task, but already I am renewing my acquaintance with some old friends and discovering some whom I have overlooked. Make a change to the things around you. How does it feel?
And, as you are doing this, reflect on our life as the community of Scots Church. Think about something that we do here. How might we rearrange this, not throwing it out, but seeing it in a new light, in a fresh way?
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
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