Here We Go Again! – Or – The more things change, the more they stay the same – Or – Psalm 27.
“How many times we start again” is the first line of a hymn we will be singing this Sunday. I would change the rest of that line to read “on life’s unwinding way”.
Our lives are full of re-beginnings. At this time of year we think of re-starting school or work after summer vacation and although that can be stressful, there is also a good bit of joy and excitement in the re-launching of our routines.
But as most of us know, sometimes the beginnings that we choose or that are forced upon us fill us with anxiety as we look to a future that seems very uncertain and unpredictable – and all we really want is to stay with what is familiar and seems safe. We know that things are not perfect in the present and that we may even be living with significant challenges. But wouldn’t it be so much easier just to stay where we are, settle in and hope for the best? Because we are smart people, every time we choose to say “let’s just wait and see what happens” we know there is a cost. And we also know that there are costs to stepping into a future of enticing, although unknown, possibility. How we weigh those costs is how we decide to proceed. I find it remarkable that this hymn captures so much of where we are as a congregation as we continue conversation about our present and our future and how property redevelopment may or may not figure in it.
Many times in the 194 years of the history of First Baptist Church Halifax, these decision points have arisen. We are familiar with our origin story, the moves from Granville St. to Spring Garden Road, to Oxford St. and to a “bigger and better” building on Oxford St., becoming an inclusive and affirming congregation and the fallout from that decision. Each time those congregations looked at their present and the uncertain future and made a leap of faith, trusting in what they felt called to do. [There were surely other lesser known decision points in our past where we have looked at the present and the uncertain future and we decided – maybe rightly, maybe wrongly – not to make significant change.]
So we find ourselves, again, at a generational, maybe even existential, decision point. The hymn which we will read as a call to worship and sing later in the service, reflects accurately where we are and the kinds of thoughts many of us are having. We are questioning our present; questioning the wisdom of making radical change. And yet … we can catch a glimpse and be excited about the wondrous music and light and friendships that could be.
Several weeks ago the text for the service was Psalm 27. The psalmist recites past and current difficulties and is confident that God will once again be a faithful partner in moving ahead into the future. In writing about this psalm, Walter Brueggermann, noted Old Testament scholar and theologian says, these are “the words of those who aren’t being thrown from a bull for the first time. This crisis isn’t these psalmists’ first rodeo. .. they are able to trust on the basis of past experience, that a brighter tomorrow will soon dawn.”
This isn’t our first rodeo either. We at FBCH have a rich history of acknowledging our circumstances and making bold decisions grounded in our faith in a God that is as close as our breath. We will not read Psalm 27 this Sunday, but we will sing this hymn, for it too is a hymn of trust. And just like the folk of Psalm 27, as we sing, we will be listening for the voice of God leading us into our future.