I woke up to a mess. This wasn’t a surprise. The wind had been blowing strongly when I went to bed and it got fiercer as the night progressed. In the morning, there were leaves and small branches all over the property. Fortunately, no large branches had come down this time, though the news carried a report of a car nearby damaged by a branch. The trees in my street routinely drop branches. On a night of a high wind, putting the garbage out is something done with furtive alacrity – quite an adventure! This morning all that remained was the mess and the news reports. I communed with nature for a while as I swept leaves into a large pile, the accumulated memory of the wind.
In the human story, the wind has provided a wealth of metaphors and images. Most, it seems to me, are associated with change – the winds of change – either as a gentle breeze or a strong gale. Some suggest fierce and fearful opposition. The gospels record a story of the disciples caught in a storm on lake Galilee, struggling to make way as they battle headwinds and a rough sea (Mark 4:36-41). Jesus is with them, calmly asleep in the boat. Eventually, they rouse him and he stills the waves. All is calm. There is no mess on the lake.
I wish it were that easy. In my experience, at those times when I have felt buffeted by strong winds, the solution has never been quite so simple as calling on Jesus. The resolution usually demanded effort on my part. And there has always been mess afterwards to be cleaned up. It is not as if God has abandoned me, no, God has always been alongside me, but the story is not as neat and tidy as that of the disciples in the boat. They did not have to rake up the debris from gum trees. As Anne Lamott wrote “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be …”
I don’t think that the real story is ever as tidy as that biblical storm. This year, March lies totally in Lent and closes with Good Friday and the story of the crucifixion. That story would have to be the archetypal example of winds opposing life. It is far from neat and tidy. We have to wait ‘til next month for the resolution, as we so often have to wait in our lives.
I wonder, does a similar situation apply to our community, the church? We have been buffeted by the winds of change in recent times, as the demographic and social pressures have moved the church from the centre of society to the margins and shifted membership in numbers and in age. We have seen branches fall as churches, once strong and vibrant, close. There is still no end in sight for this windstorm. What a mess!
There is another common image of the wind, as a metaphor for the Spirit. We like to think of this one as a gentle soothing breeze, but what if we considered it, for a moment, as sometimes taking the form of a gale force wind, in our lives and in life as a community? How do we cope with this?
Scots belongs to a grouping of congregations with the UCA called the Urban Mission Network. Recently, the UMN began a new initiative focussed on the ageing population. Scots hosts this initiative. We call it Creative Ageing and Spirituality. Creative Ageing? In the recent past, some Moderators have used the image of seed opening or a plant growing as the image for their term. What might it mean to combine the sprouting seed image with the image of someone who is in their 70s? That’s an image of creative ageing. Spirituality? A young person might say “Jesus is my Lord and Saviour,” but with the passing years, with the knocks and challenges of life, what that statement means for the person changes. As we grow older our understanding and living of the faith changes.
CA&S is still in its infancy. We have a few good programs in the pipeline. As well as hosting this initiative, Scots is adding its own part. We are about to start a “SeniorPreneurs” program, which is aimed to assist retired people to shape a career, an enterprise, after retirement, a bit like a “playgroup for seniors!” We are letting the wind, the Spirit, blow us to a new place, ever with the trust in God’s love.
When I was at high school, one of my school sports was sailing. Sometimes, when there was a high wind, we would turn the boat, put up the spinnaker and almost fly over the water with the wind behind us. The Spirit might be a headwind, but it might also give us a way to fly. The Spirit may blow opportunity towards us. Instead of lamenting the changes in society, let’s sail with the Spirit!
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
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