Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
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They say change is good. And indeed change can be good. It can be very good and rejuvenating in many ways. There is the opportunity to begin again, see things with a fresh perspective or even allow ourselves to be open to new possibilities that otherwise may not have emerged. But change can also be scary and unpredictable. Even good change, change that we are looking forward to such as the birth of a new child can illicit within us fear we never knew we had. We start playing through all the “what if’s” in our mind. We imagine the worst case scenarios. Funny thing, that in my experience, more often than not, when I go to the place of worst case scenarios, more often than not, they do not happen. More often than not, the worst case is not what happens, but rather something else. Something much more desirable and prayed for. The birth of two healthy daughters for example.

  So if change, both good and bad, can be all encompassing, anxiety producing moments in our lives, what about reclaiming something from the past? Do we fret in the same way and have the same fear when we are in the process of reclaiming a past identity, or way of being? We see this in many of the latest fashions and appliances. “Retro” I think its called. On the one hand, there is the element of familiarity. We are familiar with who we have been in our past and therefore we have an idea of what to expect. But on the other hand - oh dear, what are they thinking. Although even this is not fool proof. While we may be familiar with the past, when we reclaim it in the present we do so in a new way. We re-create the old with a fresh perspective because who we were in the past, is not who we are now. We have grown and matured in different ways, experienced and learned different things all of which will influence the new before us.

The easiest way to get at this is to take a moment and imagine yourself moving back to your childhood home, or the home you first bought for yourself. This needs to be a home that you remember with great love and affection. Who were you then? Who was with you? How did you feel? What do you notice about this home?

Now come back to the present. What would happen if you were to move back to that house tomorrow? Would you keep everything the same? What modifications or renovations would you do? Would all of your current furniture fit, or would you have to make some choices?

  Quickly you can tell that while the old home has an air of familiarity and fondness, if we were to reclaim that same house again, we would do so in a new way. Our tastes and fashion changes over time - thank God. Our needs are different too.

The same is for churches. The church we attended as a child, that was hugely influential in our lives looks and feels different when we go back as adults. This is normal and something we experience in all aspects of our lives. We see and experience things differently over time. Churches, like most of us, also have a phobia to change. I don’t know if you have noticed that. But what if we, as a church, were to re-claim or re-vitalize something from the past? What would that look like? I believe that we as a Church can offer the world a healthy and positive way in navigating through change and in revitalizing our past in a new, fresh way.

  Our liturgy and worship is a classic example of taking something that is ancient and expressing it in a new way. The Eucharist, at its heart is a meal shared between friends. Something we do all the time. Jesus gave us the Eucharist and asked us to remember him in the breaking of bread and pouring of wine. We have been doing so ever since. However, how we have celebrated the Eucharist has changed and adapted over time.

Altars that were once East facing and against the wall are now moved forward so the people and Presider can see each other. The connection and relationship between Presider and people is integral to the chemistry of worship.   

The words we use in our liturgy have also changed. We now speak English in church, not Latin, so that we can understand one another. From the earliest formations of the prayer book through to today in it’s various manifestations our order of service has changed with the changing of Kings and Queens, to societal shifts and norms as well. Yet through all this change, the central thread and theology has remained intact that in all the ways in which we share the Eucharist, worshiping in the ‘round’ or in pews, we are still praising God and remembering Christ in word and sacrament.

Jesus, early in his ministry, attends a wedding. Worst case scenario happens. The hosts run out of wine. So, in a mild or not so mild panic, Mary says to the servant’s, “Do whatever he tells you.” Apparently Jesus is being difficult and saying that his “hour has not yet come.” We then hear how six jars are filled with water. Yes, we can read into this the six days of creation. God is creating something new and good again. When the chief steward draws some out, the water has changed into wine. And not just any wine. This is new wine, the best wine of the night. This new wine is served later towards the end of the party when everyone has eaten and drunken too much already. The best wine is served now at this moment.

Friends the question for us today as we come to the start of a new year. With the whole year before us as a clean slate, the question for us is: “What is our new wine?” What is the need thing we are going to do this year as a parish?

As you may have guessed, Vestry season is upon us and our own Vestry as a parish is coming up at the end of February. Yes it is hard to believe that it is this time of year again. Our Vestry meeting this year will be an opportunity for us to discuss new ways of worshiping together and engage on a process to reclaim our identity as a parish while at the same time continuing to be a place of relevance and vitality in our lives and for all who pass through our doors.  

Friends, if we were to say we have done all our best work already. The best wine has already been served and drunken. Then, for sure, the party is over. But if we were to say, God is still creating within us our best, then, then, we know that our best wine, our best days, our best work is still before us; ready for us to draw some out and serve to a thirsty world.