The following is an excerpt from Bishop Michael Pryse’s reflection during the Opening Service of Synod Assembly 2021, June 25-26, 2021
Over the course of my ministry, I’ve often been asked “why it is that things have to change within the church.”” Worship books, hymns, practices, policies, theology. Why can’t you people just leave things the way they are!”
Surprisingly, or not, nobody has asked me that question in the last 16 months, in spite of the monumental changes that have taken place within our life as church! Interesting!
“Behold I am doing a new thing says the Lord; even now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” I think maybe we have. And that’s even more interesting!
Over the past year and a bit, I think that many – not all – of us have experienced a heightened spiritual sensitivity. In the midst of circumstances that, for the most part, have been just plain awful, many of us have experienced a renewed awareness of God’s gracious presence within our individual lives and within the life of our church. And that’s really interesting!
It’s been a gift of God’s grace and the parables included in today’s Gospel lesson are pictures that describe a reign of grace. The tiny mustard seed grows into a tree that becomes a nesting place for the birds of the air! The birds didn’t and couldn’t do anything to make it happen. The seed – the reign of God – grew of its own volition and nature! It’s pure grace!
Likewise the yeast – “God’s activating grace” – is mixed by a baker – “God” – into three measures of flour – “the world.” Keep in mind that those three biblical measures are the equivalent of a bushel basket; 128 cups or 16 five pound bags of flour! And when the baker adds the 42 or so cups of water needed to make it come together, you are talking about 100 pounds of dough through which she needs to disburse the yeast! Can you imagine?
But she does it. God kneads that dough until the yeast – God’s grace – is disbursed throughout; until its everywhere! That’s the only way dough can become bread. The yeast breathes life into the loaf. It is a gift of the baker; a gift of grace.
Do you feel like you’ve been getting kneaded – k-n-e-a-d- kneaded – for the past 15 months? I know that I have. It’s rarely felt good or even comfortable! But I also know that that’s the way that yeast gets disbursed so it can breathe life and growth into the loaf. I’d like to believe that that has happened for me, for you, and for our beloved church. I’d like to believe that in significant ways, we are being made new by gifts of grace that were always present, but have been re-discovered and newly revealed!
Ecclesia reformata, sed semper reformanda.
The Church reformed, but always in the process of being reformed. This was the rallying motto of the reformation; a motto that could have been written as much for us today as it was for our reforming forebears of old.
I welcome the animating presence of these seeds and grains of grace in the life of our church. In the heightened levels of collaboration we’ve experienced within and between congregations! In the adaptation and renewal of our worship life whether high tech, low tech or no tech! I welcome it in our heightened attentiveness to maintaining connection with one another and to questions of inclusion and exclusion.
Behold I am doing a new thing says the Lord; even now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? Praise God! I think we have and I pray we will! AMEN