Uncertainty principles

We are hosting a barbecue tonight. In order to give our potential guests enough warning that they were able to come we had made the invitation at the weekend. The problem is that we live in Britain and it’s summer. There’s no guarantee that the weather will be suitable for barbecues at any given time. We hope that it’s going to be nice weather so that we can all go outside and enjoy the garden while I cremate the food.

The last time we had a barbecue the sun decided to hide behind some rainclouds and the rainclouds decided to empty themselves on us. Cooking a barbecue under an umbrella is difficult because you have to use one hand to hold the brolly and because it also seems to be a collecting point for the smoke! But we will manage.

The weather forecast gives us a guide. It tells us that heavy rain is on its way, but it should be gone by the time our guests arrive. I hope so.

Life is full of uncertainty. Because we exist in a unidirectional timeline we can only know what has happened and what is happening. We cannot know the future. Anyone who claims to be able to do so is either lucky or a fool (or a lucky fool). I’m not talking about prophecy here, but the normal, everyday, run of the mill life that we lead. We may plan on the basis of what we hope or expect but we cannot know for sure what will happen.

This means we have to be adaptable. Refusing to respond to changed circumstances results in confusion and calamity.

I think one of the biggest difficulties that churches face is adapting to change. The old joke is: how many Baptists does it take to change a lightbulb? Change??!

But churches are slow to adapt to change, if they change at all. Perhaps one reason is the struggle we have determining what aspects of our faith are immutable, unchangeable, and what are variable according to cultural change. We may well be confident in the timeless truth of the Bible, but while we are happy to wear clothes made of mixed fibres and break a Levitical rule we are unhappy when people suggest that other rules can be broken. See, for example, the public struggles in the Church of England about women in leadership and human sexuality. Can we say that the truth is timeless while interpreting that truth in different ways in each era? I think we find ourselves in difficulty when we try to use the Bible as a rigid rule book rather than a revelation of God’s principles for life. To me the Bible reveals more about God’s mercy, care for the marginalised and grace than it does about religious rule-keeping. Have a’look at Jesus’ responses to the religious rule regulators in the New Testament… we can respond more easily if we live by principles rather than rules.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

And hopefully the weather will be nice tonight.

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