Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Old and New

We are all familiar I expect with the popular story of Aladdin and his lamp. A supposedly old lamp that looks a bit battered becomes one of Aladdins' prized possessions, after his false uncle tried to trap him. His wife falls for a ploy of the false Uncle to exchange new lamps for old, she thinks to please Aladdin with a brand new lamp. The problem was that the old lamp had far more value to Aladdin than any new lamp, as it was the source of his wealth,

Its a common problem in any group that some want to hang on to the old because it can seem safe and understandable and is what they have invested in. Others hanker after something new and want to ditch the old rapidly and forget it.

Jesus in his teaching tells of not putting new wine into an old wine skin, which all of his listeners would have known was daft since new wine would burst an old, already stretched, wine skin. He had not come to simply patch up or refill the old religious traditions. However he also had not come to throw away the God's law.

And just to make things more complex, Jesus also tells us that a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die so that it can in time germinate and produce a great increase of seeds. The old seed must die to produce the new. They are not separate but interconnected, The new could not exist without the old.

New can be dazzling and attractive and tick the boxes for us, but the old often has value which we may not fully understood. The seed carries the DNA of the plant that it will "die" to become, the new in effect is a product of the old, without the old it would not exist. Understanding that connection is perhaps crucial when we look at changes in church life.

Change in church life is a fact and is constant, the pressures around us to adapt, to include, to infuse to produce new ways to do things, are immense. The difficult part is discerning what of the old to let go of and what to keep, what to let "die" so that something new can germinate from it. Even more difficult is letting go of something that we have nurtured and put huge effort into only to have to watch it fade and go. But it is sometimes the only way that the new can take shape and grow and blossom and produce a new crop, a new harvest.

Managing such change is also a skill, not too fast, not too slow, carrying at least the majority with the changes and handling the disappointments, concerns and resistance of others.

One person told me after I have been Pastor of the church for around 4 years, "you don't seem to have changed much in your time here". I smiled to myself as I reflected on all that had changed, slowly, gently and hopefully helpful to our faith journeys as a church. In the changes some things had had to go and others grew from them, Most of the changes have worked well but some changes we have got wrong and have needed to adjust. Often in getting it wrong we can learn and so improve.

The old is important if we are to better understand how to handle change, the new is important as we discern God's direction for the church we serve. Embracing both is an art.