Saturday 15 October 2022 Jubilee 14 The Reformed Church, always Reforming according to the Word of God
Isaiah 43: 18-19
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 46: 8-11
Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfil my intention’, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man for my purpose from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have planned, and I will do it.
Within the space of 3 chapters, the writer of Isaiah entirely contradicts themself. Are we to remember the former things, or NOT remember them? A treasure at the heart of the Reformed Tradition is the way we return anew to Scripture in every time and place, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, hear something new.
A slogan emerged in the Reformed tradition, Ecclesia Reformata Semper Reformanda Est Secundum Verbum Dei, ‘The Reformed Church, always Reforming according to the Word of God’. We turn back to the Word of God in Scripture and, centrally, the Word of God made incarnate in Christ. In response to the perpetually fresh thing we hear, we re-form the proclamation of the Church in ways that become the living Word of God in our own time and place. We re-form Church itself.
The Basis of Union of the United Reformed Church: “The United Reformed Church, under the authority of Holy Scripture and in corporate responsibility to Jesus Christ its everliving head, acknowledges its duty to be open at all times to the leading of the Holy Spirit and therefore affirms its right to make such new declarations of its faith and for such purposes as may from time to time be required by obedience to the same Spirit.”
At our best, following the call of Isaiah, we remember the former things of old that God has done for us, and the plans God has for us. We also forget the things of old that tie us down, holding us back from responding to the blowing of the winds of the Spirit in our midst today. My prayer is that this year of Jubilee will recall us to be the most faithful church we can be. Remembering and forgetting, ever faithful to the Word of God come amongst us in Christ.
Living God, we give you thanks for the gift of your Spirit: opening our ears to hear anew; opening our eyes to see anew; opening our hearts to you anew. May we set down the human traditions that hold us back; treasure the tradition of your Word that leads us on; be a people who faithfully forget; and a people who faithfully remember. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr John Bradbury is the General Secretary