The Word of the Month for JUNE is 

RENEW

RENEW: verb, transitive and intransitive. 1. Restore to original state, make (as good as) new, resuscitate, revivify, regenerate. 2. Patch, fill up, reinforce, replace. 3. Get, begin, make, say, or give, anew, continue after intermission. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

So the question for this month is this: What renewal do we hope for?

National and community renewal

The crown has fallen from our head;
   woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our hearts are sick,
   because of these things our eyes have grown dim: …

But you, O Lord, reign for ever;
   your throne endures to all generations.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
   Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
   renew our days as of old. (Lamentations 5:16–21)

The book of Lamentations in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) was written during a period of suffering for the ancient people of Israel. The country had been invaded and many of the people had been taken into exile. The prophets put the disaster down to the sins of Israel’s leaders and its people and were left asking whether God had forgotten them: for surely God could have prevented the catastrophe, or at least could have remedied the situation after it had happened.

Questions for us today:

What has gone wrong in our world and in our country?

What are its causes?

What kinds of renewal do we hope for?

From where do we hope renewal will come?

Ethical renewal

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. … now you must get rid of … anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Colossians 3:1–4, 8–11)

This New Testament passage appears in a letter that Paul the Apostle wrote to the church in Colossae. He envisages a cosmic renewal, still to be completed but already begun, the evidence being Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Christians he is writing to would have been baptised by full immersion, representing a raising to a new life as a Christian, and he’s telling them to live now the kind of life that they will live when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of God is established. Because in that new community of peace and justice there will be no barriers, enmity, or prejudice between different kinds of people, they should live now as if that is the case. 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

In this letter to the church in Rome Paul asks specifically for a renewal of our minds: a renewal of the way that we think. 

Questions for us today:

What are the evils that we practice and that we suffer from?

With what should they be replaced?

Is a religious motive the only feasible basis for ethical renewal?

What are the barriers, enmities and prejudices that we practice and from which we suffer? 

Does Christian Faith enable us to abolish such barriers, enmities, and prejudices in ourselves and in our society?

Are there other routes to abolishing barriers, enmities and prejudices in our society and in ourselves?

How should we think differently?

The renewal of the Church

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:11–17)

When Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, it was not just to its individual members that he was writing: his theme was the renewal of the church as a whole. His prescription for that renewal was the abolition of barriers, enmities, and prejudices between members of the church and between different groups within the church, and also a variety of ethical behaviours and religious practices.

Questions for us today:

In what ways does the church need renewal today?

What’s holding back such renewal? And what would facilitate it?

Is Paul’s prescription still valid?

Spiritual renewal

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

  and all people shall see it together …

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:5, 28–31)

During the last part of the book of the prophet Isaiah in the Hebrew Scriptures the prophet is looking forward to a renewal, not just of his own nation but of all of the nations. If God can create and maintain the cosmos then God can achieve that renewal: a renewal in which everyone can participate. 

And in the books written between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, we find this written about wisdom:

Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. (Wisdom 7:27–28)

Questions for us today:

How all-encompassing is our hope? For the cosmos, the planet, the nations, the nation, our city, and every individual within them?

From where do we look for renewal of the cosmos, the planet, the nations, the nation, our city, and every individual within them?

What are the connections between national renewal, ethical renewal, church renewal, and spiritual renewal?

 

St Mary Abchurch

For 340 years St Mary Abchurch has been a place in which individuals and institutions have sought renewal—national, City, ethical, church, and spiritual renewal. If it is to continue to fulfil that purpose then the building itself needs to be renewed. So we have embarked on a substantial refurbishment project that will both conserve the stunning Wren building and its almost unique Wren interior, and enable it to fulfil its purpose into the future.

A separate booklet and website page will tell you about our plans for the building.

 

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

© Copyright St Mary Abchurch Guild Church Council 2024. All rights reserved.

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