Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends

In a well-known magazine I read the following:
“The words ‘tweet’, ‘web’, ‘stream’ and ‘cloud’ all once evoked images of the great outdoors. But mention these words to today’s children and they’ll more than likely think you’re talking about social media or digital technology. A new survey by language experts revealed 37% of children associated the word ‘web’ with the internet rather than spiders, while just 1% of those asked said ‘tweet’ referred to birds.”

I do remember my mother complaining bitterly at the way words had been “hijacked” (her description) to mean something completely different and, indeed, often risque. She responded by regularly using them in what she felt was their true context much to the astonishment of her grandchildren.
I must admit that I, too, can be a bit grumpy about the way words have significantly changed meaning. However, after reading the quote above, I realised that I was very much part of the streaming and tweeting generation, even if I am only dipping my toes in the water.

The reality is that things change, language develops and we have to go with it. So, too, do other aspects of our society and culture. I see that it is so easy to get stuck in our own time-frame, which is usually the past and often our formative years as children and young adults. Please don’t misunderstand me, whilst there are many exciting and new innovations in all aspects of our culture, there is still great value in rooting ourselves in what is good, creative, wholesome and sensible - I suppose you might call it our traditions. The key for me is using the best of what has been and combining it with the best of what is emerging.

As we look back through history we realise that this challenge has always existed. As human beings in our formative years we are ready and willing to try out new things and be inventive with our language. As we get older we become more fixed and less willing to step out of our comfort zone. Of course, I note that this is a very broad generalisation but it is something I often see, both in myself and others. It was true in Jesus’ day too. There are a few times in the Gospels where Jesus confronts the rigidity of the establishment quite forcefully. In one passage he calls them, “a brood of vipers”. His main complaint is that their fixed ideological, political and religious positions resulted in the oppression of most of the population - as if they didn’t have enough to deal with via the Romans. Of them, in Matthew 23 v4, Jesus says, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

It is true that Jesus was a revolutionary but his revolution was founded in God’s generosity, mercy and love. It is important to note that he was not advocating throwing away the old and bringing in the new, rather, taking what was good and of God from the past and combining it with a new vision of hope and freedom through faith in him. His passion was to set people free and release them to love as God loves us and he was willing to die for that cause.
I see a real challenge here. One of the best ways to alienate those who are different from us is to reject their culture and insist on keeping things the way they are. One of the best ways of influencing our culture for the better is by listening to them and, though we may not be able to embrace everything, to value who they are, remembering that we were once different too.

Every blessing. Stephen

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