Marlpool United Reformed Church
In serving our community, we pray that they may come to know the love of Christ through us. In John 13, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and gave them a new commandment to love.
We feel that we are serving the community of Jesus' name
Minister’s Heart: Back to business as usual?
We are going through a season of transition: from full lockdown toward full freedom. We are between the old and the new. In such a transition, we can neither dwell in the past nor fully embrace the future. It has been great to be able to meet with people again, even if that is mostly limited to outdoor spaces. While some people are making the most of it, I am aware that other people are a little bit slower at returning to past routines: we all need to go at our own pace, doing things that feel right and comfortable to us. This made me realize that one year of restriction is longer and more challenging than what many of us want to acknowledge.
We are wired to embrace stability and routines from the very young age, are we not? Psychologist Kim Schneiderman argued that: ‘parents reward us for mastering routines of hygiene and self-discipline. Our educational system grooms us for progressive levels of security, reinforcing the belief that skill mastery yields the predictable comforts of a settled life. As we age, we are measured by our gains, not our losses, our stability, not our vulnerability’. All this does not quite take into account the occurrence of powerful, temporary life-changing events such the Covid-19 pandemic: unpredictable, disturbing our ways of life, throwing us in the deep, and reorganizing the fabric of our society.
In one year, many people have developed new life-styles, rhythms of life and behaviours. Many human beings like a sense of routine: we are creatures of habits. The problem for some people is that some of the unhelpful Covid-19 habits have become second nature. One year is long enough to develop second natures. Looking back, it is also true that many of us have seen their self-confidence shattered, and weakened. It would be mistaken to assume that everyone is easily going to go back to normal life. We do not have the same level of confidence and adaptability. Confidence may take time to be rebuilt, and fear much effort to be dissipated. Added to this, is the reality that many people have changed in one year: some are no longer able to do what they used to do for one reason or another. Most people, I know agree that many aspects of life will never be the same again. So how do we individually and collectively return to this new normality safely and fruitfully?
I wonder whether the first step would not be to take time, listening to people and understanding where they come from or where they are stuck in. Some people might need encouraging, while others might need gently restraining? The second step could be to scrutinize how much this pandemic has affected and rearranged our social connections. Lost connections may need to be replaced and newly found connections need to be nurtured. Thirdly, we can perhaps choose and strive to see this new season through positive lenses, as a blank sheet and an Eldorado of opportunities and possibilities.
God’s people are a people on a pilgrimage. Throughout our lives, we adapt to new seasons. Sometimes, I wonder why God makes it such that our spiritual lives are like an unending, dynamic journey: just when we think that we are settled, and know and control it all, a new challenge or opportunity arises, to move us on. This often ushers in a new season, when we have to trust God afresh, learning new things and discovering new facets of the unfathomable Lord. Are we not too prone to turn our achievements or God’s achievements into idols and superficial comfort zones? Are we not too tempted to turn dynamic events and relationships into routines and religions? After 400 hundred years of slavery in Egypt, many Hebrews struggled to embrace the freedom, offered by the Lord: their suffering became strongholds and their successful oppressors became idols. Even the wilderness that was meant for 40 days, became 40 years, partly because many refused to let go of Egypt’s habits and customs: the oppressed became addicted to oppression. Many Jewish people in the New Testament also refused update the Old Covenant and embrace the blessings of the New Covenant.
I suggest that our sovereign and generous Lord has some ‘new wine’ for us, in this unfolding season: new hope, new opportunities, new mercies, graces and favours. In the church history, God has often brought spiritual outpouring and awakening during times of trials. Yet, will we be wasteful, pouring out new wine in old wine-skins? (Matthew 9:14-17). Or will we be bold enough to refresh our old habits, our old wine-skins, into more solid and purposeful new wine-skins?
Yours in Christ, Bachelard