Making new

It’s good to get away. In America I was reminded that they see the world differently. It’s refreshing to realize that our obsessions are just that—our obsessions. They are not shared by other people or other nations, who have different concerns and different ways of looking at the world. It is always worth trying to see a situation through someone else’s lenses, and trying to imagine how circumstances must be affecting different people in different ways. It lifts us out of the trenches we dig for ourselves, the trenches that no matter how comfortable we make them bear little relationship to what we see if we look over the edges into the real world. However reluctant we might be to do so, we might be pleasantly surprised by the view. The winds of change can be quite bracing. Change is in the air economically. We may not like it, but we can’t avoid it. To live is to change, and not to change is to die. Let go of your certainties, and accept that you can’t predict the future and you can’t in any meaningful way control it. You can’t use your will to control what is going on in the cells of your body, and you never know when some bodily process will start something that changes you. This is a hard message for people who find change a challenge. But go easy on yourself and accept the glorious uncertainty of life.

There is a renewal in all this, and the key to it is to live in the present. Our Lord’s teaching again and again emphasizes that we need to do just this. Learn from the past certainly, but don’t live in it. Look to the future, but don’t waste time laying up treasures. Live now, in the moment. This, actually, is what eternal means. When we hear ‘everlasting life’ in church services, we often get the wrong idea, and it would be better, and more accurate a translation of the Greek, to use the word eternal rather than everlasting. As the last Bishop of Derby said, it’s not quantity or length of time that matters, but quality. Eternal, timeless, out of time, in the present, Divine. Thy kingdom come on earth, here and now. When you live with the Divine, in the present, he writes, ‘you see the world differently, it shapes your values, it determines what is important to you, it brings much joy, and you face mystery, suffering, tragedy in a different way.’ Trust the teaching of Jesus: live in the present moment, and do your best in that moment. We can do no more, and we need do no more. In one sense this is easy to do, and in another it’s extraordinarily difficult when we are surrounded by the petty irritations that life throws up day by day, when we see the injustice that surrounds us, and when we are governed, as we are, by faulty behaviour patterns bred into us by our upbringings and prejudices. But see all these for what they are, and trust and hope.

This is the Easter message: trust and hope. To trust is to have faith. ‘I believe in …’ would perhaps be better rendered (and, again, a better translation) as ‘I trust in …’. New life follows pain and betrayal and tragedy and death. We have eggs at Easter because eggs contain embryos—the seeds of the new life. In mammals like us, embryos grow in the uterus, and in a real sense the church at its best has been viewed for 2000 years as a uterus that nourishes and sustains new life. Too often the church is seen as somewhere that preserves the past, but such an attitude has nothing to do with Christian teaching. Be ready to grow, to change, to receive the Easter message and go forward in glorious uncertainty to meet whatever the world throws at you. Live eternally. Live in the present. Be joyful. Have fun, and enable others to do likewise.

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