My wife Deb and I moved to Como and joined South Perth Uniting Church just before the first Pandemic lockdown in 2020. Typically, such a transition would have involved spending time adjusting to our new neighbourhood and faith community. Instead, we had the unique opportunity to be part of a congregation that rapidly adopted to new ways of meeting online, on-site and adjusting to an influx of new people.
The challenge has been navigating through different expectations, styles of communication and age ranges that includes four generations. We experimented a lot, in order to deepen and grow fellowship together as followers of the ways, works and words of Jesus. The pandemic constricted all of us to local places, as well as accelerating a bunch of societal changes. How are we meant to think, talk and act as followers of Jesus in our ‘new normal’ time?
I often remind myself of Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will teach and guide us at the right time with what needs to be said and done (for example, in Luke 12:12).
As I look back over the past 18 months, I’m struck by Bible stories, set in a very specific time and place, that we explored – and which became meaningful to us – in our time and place. Using the Godly Play material’s ‘core stories’ we started with Creation, Noah’s flood and Tower of Babel, before exploring the journeys of Abraham, Jacob and the Apostles, and finishing with the stories of saints like Eric Liddell, Amy Carmichael and John Wesley.
We have discovered that each of these witnessed to God’s presence, protection and provision and have acted like anchors in our own stormy season of change.
Is it strange that the unique experiences of people in their place and time can help us in ours?
Generation after generation have discovered and rediscovered the Bible as a valuable “light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105) with its ability to “equip (us) for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). One claim for the Bible’s power to bring peace and hope is that it’s God’s overarching revelation and explanation of history to humanity. We are the beneficiaries of that slow and intentional unveiling that culminates in Jesus, and is unpacked in the early church and subsequent disciples by the Holy Spirit.
Suppose when you die, you come to God with a list of questions regarding the point and purpose of creation and specifically humanity. You might ask God:
- why did you create us, particularly if you knew we were going to rebel and be so destructive? or
- why did you not just wipe-out all the bad people and start again? or
- why are there so many languages that makes communicating so hard between people? or
- why didn’t you choose a good family to be your spokespeople on the earth? or
- why didn’t you send someone to tell us directly what we are meant to do? And so on and so forth.
All these questions and many more are answered in the Bible. Of course, we might not like the answers and in that case we might want to read Job Chapters 38 to 41 and find God’s response to such a disagreement.
I wonder what stories from distant places and long ago times encourage, comfort and challenge you?
Its winter here in the Southern Hemisphere, making it an ideal season to curl up with the mostpopular book in the world, the Bible, and refresh yourself for the days ahead.
You must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. Many of you have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true, and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (1 Timothy 3:14-17)
Rev Mark Illingworth