There is a really useful post on Nick Baines’ blog this morning on change and how we approach it. Do read the thing. Nick’s blog is often about the daily life of working in a northern diocese (he is a bishop after all), but his understanding of the Kingdom of God, of the perpetuity of change and the fact that we have to live often in an enforced change culture is challenging.
Particularly challenging is this paragraph, taken from near the end of the post (a sermon in digital disguise):
Christian theology and life is characterised by a commitment to be counter-cultural in seeing behind the veil of present ‘reality’ and being drawn by the haunting melody of a future barely glimpsed in the resurrection as God shines the light of his future into our present, disturbing us with a hope that won’t let us go. That is what Christian discipleship is all about and it forms the compelling instinct for worship. It must also drive our will to live in the light of the past in the present for the future and not to be always ten steps behind the world we are supposed to be reaching and leading.
Brothers and sisters, let us keep before us a vision of the Kingdom of God, rooted in hope, that fires our imagination, strengthens our courage, drives our will, feeds our prayers, sweetens our speech and is characterised by mutual love.
What this tells us is that as Christians we live partly outside of time, or at least beyond the relentlessness of time, in God’s time, which has more fragrance and more peace, more time, actually!
Last month a friend sent me this poem by the Welsh poet RS Thomas, entitled The Bright Field. I like it because it one of Thomas’ less morbid poems, but also because it reminds us of the hope I am called to.
In Bishop Nick’s terminology, it reminds me that whilst we live in the present, in the light of the past, for the future, we hold out to ourselves and to all people a vision of what a place could be – whether a school, a city, a farm. Nick Baines is right in that we can never ever go back to an imagined past – simply because it was never there, but I would say further that we have to live in the light of what we can achieve, with God, in his kingdom, holding out the word of life.
When evangelicals, such as I used to be, talk about holding out the word of life we automatically think about the gospel of salvation, an individual holiness and a fixing of our wretched relationship with God. And so it is, to begin with, but the word of life holds so much more – the vision of a new city, of a river that flows from the city of God, bringing life to all who would swim in it.
I am growing in confidence in a knowledge of what this school could be and what it is becoming. However, I still have to cope with the enforced changes flowing from a government that at times seems to be in a grip of a mass psychosis, lemming-like, on the edge of a cliff of their own manufacture. These changes are not as drastic as the ones Nick Baines talks about in 20th century German history, but thhey seem harsh and unfeeling to us as those who would demonstrate love and live in love.