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New, new, new

It will be new whether you make it new or not ~Alice Fulton

Behold, I am about to do a new thing. It springs up before you. Do you not perceive it? ~Isaiah 43:19

Recently, I led a workshop in which I asked participants to free associate with the word, “new.” The response included positive words, like excitement and hope, and negative words, such as fear and anxiety, as well as words that could go in either direction depending on your perspective – change and future.

I went on to say that, in the Hebrew Bible, the word for “new” is derived from the same word as “month.” In the lunar calendar, a “new moon” represents the passage of time; and yet, the implication is cyclical. A “new” moon is really a renewed moon: it is not a complete and distinct break from the past, but rather part of a pattern.

The great story of the Bible also relates to a pattern of renewal: no matter how many times people turn away and sin, God is always ready to forgive. Our journey is likewise a matter of return and redemption. In this context, the words through the prophet Isaiah are full of hope.

Alice Fulton notes that our concept of time is “full of then – both past and next, iridescent with suspense.” We perceive a sense of condition: if that happened yesterday, then this will happen tomorrow. While it is true that some actions have consequences, it is more true that absolute control is merely an illusion. It seems to me that the Buddha was absolutely correct: everything changes. And I wonder if our anxiety around “new” is really this profound yet uneasy awareness. The opposite take, however, is that there is freedom: “It will be new whether you make it new or not.”

According to another famous spiritual teacher, Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.

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