Romans 12. 9-21
Reflection by the Revd Adrian Jones
A few days ago our son has started a new school – I’m glad to say that it’s all going well, but there are challenges too of course; a different layout, new rules, fresh expectations, and then social distancing and ‘bubbles’ as well. No surprise that he’s missing the familiar ways and safe routines of the old school.
We all have that tendency don’t we? It’s very tempting to look back with rose-tinted spectacles and yearn for things as they used to be. Perhaps a better way would be to resolve to let the past teach us and shape us, but not to hold onto it so tightly that we can’t grasp the new things God wants to give us.
Over the last 10 weeks or so I’ve been writing a series of reflections for the newsletter called ‘Holy Habits’, looking back in the Bible to the first church, as it’s described in the Book of Acts. I’ve been using Acts to help us identify the key characteristics of what it means to be the church in every generation… the people of God, living in and serving the world, sharing the story of all he has done, and following the way of Jesus. But I know that I mustn’t idealise the past - that backwards look has to run alongside an openness to God’s future too.
Sam Wells, who is the Vicar of St Martin in the Fields, in Trafalgar Square, has written this:
“People talk as if Jesus and the early church lived an eternity ago and set everything in stone. But what if Jesus still lives today and the church still has thousands or millions of years ahead of it? Perhaps we are the early church, still haggling over the details, and rightly so.”
He’s right of course - the church is not set in stone…. and we know sometimes change is forced upon us!
But God’s good purpose for us remains constant. Through faith in Jesus Christ he wants us to live lives of active, practical, loving kindness to others. We read this in Romans 12 today: “Share with those in need …… show hospitality ….. rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn… live in harmony…. do what is right …. be at peace…. feed your hungry enemy… overcome evil with good.” All commands that are very practical and active aspects of love for others.
While the way we ‘do church’ is changing, and the way of being the church is changing, God’s goodness remains constant however. Therefore the way we do life, our way of being a Christian, should remain constant as well.
As Romans shows us, it’s simply the way of Jesus. It’s the way of love, whatever the circumstances and whatever shape the church has to take. This is our calling amidst the uncertainties and changes of the pandemic world – a calling to love in action.