There’s a handful of books I re-read on a fairly regular basis. For example, I’ve read J.R.R.Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” more times than I can remember. Do you know that every time I read it, (spoiler alert), Frodo destroys the ring? It’s a strange thing that I can derive pleasure from reading a story again and again where I know the plot back to front. Some psychologists think that in a world that is seen as chaotic, one in which we have little control over events, anything that we find familiar is clung to. It could be why we like routine; why we feel comfortable repeating the same behaviours over and over again.
This week, our main reading comes from Isaiah. In particular, the part where God tells Israel that their time in Babylonian exile is over and God will lead them across the wilderness back to Jerusalem. Using imagery from the original Exodus no doubt puts Israel in mind of the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. So they know how this is going to go down. They’ll wander, in hardship, for a time before coming into Jerusalem, God’s done this before. Except this time, God says it is going to be different. God is wanting a different result from last time so God will do this in a new way. God will not be bound by the past, nor by the expectations of the people.
Our God is a creator God and as such will do things in a new way in order to create new things. We know the world is not as it should be, we’ve seen in Jesus how it is going to be. Therefore God will do new things, in new ways, to bring about this change. In our second reading, Paul explains how he has changed. We know who we are is not who we are ultimately going to be so we too will change through the power of the Spirit. I know it’s an attractive thought, to stay where we are comfortable, to do what we’ve always done in a constantly changing world, but if we stick rigidly to what we’ve always done, we’ll miss this opportunity and fall short of what God calls us to be. If we are open to change through God’s leading, we will race towards this promised goal. As individuals, and as a congregation, we need to change too so we can fulfil the mission in this area that God has called us to. The past is there to inform us, not to restrict us and bind us to doing the same things over and over again.
(Image Elijah Wood portraying Frodo Baggins in New Line Cinema’s “The Return of the King”)