Saturday, 28 May 2011

We Limit not the Truth of God

As the Scottish Church and the House of Bishops of the Church of England once again display the churches' preoccupation with and inability to solve issues around sexuality, I have been very struck by the hymn I re-discovered in my mother's old Congregational Praise as I was searching for appropriate hymns for her funeral service, this week. I remembered that she had said that she had always liked the sentiments expressed in this hymn. It seems to me to impart something of the openness to the future, inclusivity, and trust in the continued work of the Holy Spirit through human hearts and minds that I associate with the best of Congregationalism. It is based on the parting words of Pastor John Robinson to the Pilgrim Fathers in 1602 and was written by George Rawson (1807-1889).

We limit not the truth of God
To our poor reach of mind,
By notions of our day and sect,
Crude, partial and confined:
No, let a new and better hope
Within our hearts be stirred:
The Lord hath yet more light and truth 
To break forth from His word.

O Father, Son and Spirit, send
Us increase from above;
Enlarge, expand all Christian souls
To comprehend Thy love;
And make us all go on to know,
With nobler powers conferred,
The Lord hath yet more light and truth
To break forth from His word.  

I resonate with the notion of truth breaking forth from God's Word - not simply emerging or shining, but struggling to get out. Scripture has been interpreted in ways that have done untold damage to people and to the earth, as well as in ways that have brought life and hope and insight and education. Christians have so often been, and so often are, wrong or  limited by preoccupations with our own very insular understanding of culture and how God speaks through it. Things that have seemed immutable laws in the past come to be seen in a new light as our understanding and knowledge develop; scripture requires constant interpretation in the light of what the Spirit is telling the churches. A change in understanding does not necessarily imply inconsitency in scripture or God's wisdom, but rather in the human capacity for understanding and wisdom.  I am grateful to God and to my mother for the insights of her cherished theological tradition and a life which included service in WRNS during the second world war and in Ghana.  

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