Happy New Year.
New Year’s Day, the most generous day of the year. You get a brand-new year with no marks, no scratches; that fresh new year smell. No miles on it and no mistakes, not yet anyway.
Yes of course It’s abstract that we choose to call this a ‘new year’, but why not embrace the idea? This is a chance for a fresh start. What do you need to change? What good habits should you keep, even reinforce? And what belongs in 2018 and should be left there.
What does God have for us this new year?
Some people like to look for God in the past, as if he’s always behind us. As if there was some rarefied time in history when everything was ‘as it should be’ and ‘if only’ we could get back there everything would be ok. Sadly, we see far too much of this in religions around the world.
Institutions like the church often have a centre of gravity in the past. We have to be dragged kicking and screaming forwards. Be it slavery, or the inclusion of women, or more recently attitudes to the LGBTQ+ community. We have been slow and reluctant to embrace new thinking.
But what if God is ahead of, us pulling us forwards? What is God is behind these developments and not against them?
I guess part of the challenge is the way we read the Bible, our core text, or ‘God’s Word’, as Christians often call it. The Bible is a book that was written two to five thousand years ago in a culture so very different to ours. Rightly, we read this book for inspired guidance about how to live well in the world, it is full of great wisdom, but that does not mean trying to turn the clock back 2000 plus years and live in the culture of the past.
Read properly the Bible is the story of the development of God’s people, their journey, their mistakes, their successes, their joys and their failures as they try to understand and apply their understanding of God to their lives.
It is the story of Jesus, the very image of God, but also a man in a time and place, a man born into a certain culture. Yet his ideas and teachings; the way he treated, included and welcomed people, were so far ahead of his culture at the time.
It is also the story of the first Christians, the impact Jesus’ life, death and resurrection had on them and how they are now going to try to live. Changed forever, how are they going to live faithfully in the light of all they have seen and heard?
All the time God is found in the pages of the Bible, teaching them, pulling them forwards, revealing more and more of how to live and love well (Read Acts 10 for a great example).
Christians read and study this book. In its pages we discover the big ideas, amongst them love, grace and forgiveness. Our task is to work out how to live them in our time, in our context. How to pick up the trajectories of love, peace, grace, and inclusion and continue moving them forwards, onwards, upwards.
What if God is not behind us in the past, but also ahead of us, willing us onward, forwards?
As we turn to 2019, this is an idea that compels me, fills me with hope and courage. As we turn the page from 2018 to 2019 we are presented with a blank page. The pen is in our hand. What story will we choose to write?
Bessels Green Baptist Church is committed to helping you explore and experience the forgiveness, grace and love of God, please check out bgbc.co.uk for details of our activities or get in touch via email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Grace and peace,
Rev Charlie Ingram