Thought for the Month (October 2012)

Dear Friends,

October, is it Autumn already? 'Season of mists and mellow peevishness', with the old year beginning to draw to its close. I don't like the Autumn because it reminds me that I also am getting old! You can tell I am getting old because I shout at the television more than I used to! I shout at the historical programmes because they have got it all wrong, I shout at the newscasts because I've heard it all before, and I moan at the programming because I have seen all the films on SKY, Dave and ITV 3 at least twice-over. 'You should try something new', they say. Good advice; get a computer, get on the Internet, open a Facebook page, get on Twitter, for that is where the world is now-a-days. I have managed the first two, and that is where the wider Church does most of its business, or tries to. There is already a good Christian presence on the 'net' and I would like to see many more Christians take to Facebook and Twitter, but I just can't get that modern yet. Maybe I am too stubborn, too old-fashioned.

Perversely enough, though, I came across another set of stubborn people when watching one of those Heritage 'great houses' programmes on the telly. These stubborn people were the 'Amersham Martyrs' and in 1521 all thirteen of them were burned at the stake for their stubbornness. Their crime? They were caught with copies of the Wycliffe Bible at the time when persons found with Wycliffe's translation of the Bible into the English language could be declared heretics and burned to death for daring to read the Bible in their own tongue! And before we feel smug about our nearer times, remember it is only just over 100 years since Non-conformists like ourselves were banned by law from being employed in the Civil Service or going to a University.

The trick is to know what modern ideas to take on board, and what old ways to be stubborn about. The Church in general, and ourselves in particular, need to take our message to where the people are - in the pub, in the Supermarket, and on the Internet; but we need to know what our message is, whether we are just conforming with the times and accepting modern standards, or standing up for what we believe is old and right. Where do we stand on the controversy over same sex-marriage? Or the equality before the law of all religious belief, no matter how weird? We need the Bible, and we need the wisdom of God's Holy Spirit to interpret it correctly, and we need the love of Jesus to apply it to our situation. But when you do go to the New Testament, do read some of the 'hard sayings' of Jesus, for not all in the Gospels is sweetness and light!

Being old(ish) and stubborn(ish) like me, it seems important that we Christians bother to think through, and pray through, the welter of changes which society thrusts upon us; then with hindsight to know where we stand, and, knowing where we stand, to be brave enough to get up and stubbornly say so.

May God bless us with wisdom and courage in these turbulent times.

Bob Webb


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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church