January 2016

"Do not rem ember the former things ... I am about to do a new thing"
[Isaiah 43.18-19: see also Revelation 21.5]

You might like to replace the second half of this Saying with the words from Revelation 21.5, "I am making all things new." This is an intended echo of Isaiah 43.19 as Jo hn reflects on his vision of the new Jerusalem.

Our Saying comes from the Babylonian exile experience. In spite of the psalmist of Psalm 137 lamenting about the Jews' inability to "sing the songs of Sion" while in exile, in fact their clergy were spending a good deal of time "by t he waters of Babylon" looking into the tradition, reviving memories of the past, and piecing together old documents. They must have looked askance at the prophet who declared that God was saying to them (as the Revised English Bible puts it) "stop dwelling on past events."

There is no doubt that the past can hold us in thrall. Much psychological illness is the result of a person being held captive by elements of their past life which dominate their present existence and prevent them from moving towards a more healthful future. This attitude seems to have infected modern society. Consid er how every catastrophe is followed by a stream of anniversaries: one year, five years, ten years ... etc.

Against this, God spea ks the Word that urges us to go forward with expectation. If you are fixated on the past you cannot see clearly that God's creativity never stops. What ha ppened "in the beginning" is happening now, and none of us has yet seen tomorrow. God's Word urges us to take a leap of faith, and to re-open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Instead of being weighed down, perhaps even controlled, by the past, we are to look forward in hope and trust, and immerse ourselves in what the Book of Common Prayer calls "newness of life."