Living in the Past?

I am often accused of living in the past. These accusations become more pointed when I’ve been overheard giving directions around Edinburgh by using shops, and even buildings, that actually no longer exist. For example – Binns corner (never mind Frasers). Yet I can picture them clearly in my mind - they could be there. I still feel confident. I know my home-town, it’s been here for centuries, there isn’t much to surprise me. There’s hardly change at all. There is reassurance in the solidity and permanence of the streets and buildings. But am I correct?

Over the last few months we have been out walking in places I have known since my childhood. You can imagine my astonishment at coming across two harbours which I didn’t know had ever existed yet both within twenty miles of Edinburgh and on a very familiar route.

One was in Aberlady Bay. All that can be seen now are wide mud flats of the nature reserve. When the tide is out the sea cannot even be seen. But unlikely as it now appears, in the 16
th century there was a harbour and it was important, serving the county town of Haddington. Only the customs and stores building remains. The pier has long gone – invisible and forgotten. Looking now at the miles of sea marsh and mud, who would have thought ships could ever have sailed from there?

The second was near Musselburgh, substantial and built in stone. Dating from 1526 and first built by monks, the port became busy during the industrial revolution and was used for exporting bricks, pottery, glass and coal from the adjacent mine. Over the centuries ships from France, Portugal and even America visited. But not now. It is buried in the Cockenzie landfill and is only just visible breaking the surface of the new ground level. The last ship to visit, the Topaz, was abandoned when it became stranded on the silted harbour bed. No funds were found to dredge the harbour and it never left - all that productive endeavour, skill and engineering standing against the stormy sea, all gone. So, another example of the seemingly permanent and invincible – but now invisible, barely recognisable and forgotten. All things do indeed pass.

What about us? It’s uncomfortable to consider feeling forgotten or being unrecognisable to friend or even foe. It makes us feel isolated, adrift and valueless, discarded, futile. Jesus used some strong words in Matthew 7:21-23 of false disciples.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Their style was to prioritise human ideas instead of God’s, following a compromised lifestyle and indulging in selfishness and self-exaltation. They were not recognised when they knocked on the door. There is discomfort here for us. We can recognise ourselves in their failings.

When Jesus spoke of not being recognised he knew the force of it and what it felt like despite his being the very best. But he did not and does not want that for anyone. He promised to be with us always and in the bread and wine he asks us to remember him – why? Because he makes all things new, even us. Paul reflected on this in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Yes, we do compromise ourselves, we do let God down. But, through looking to Jesus we are a new creation now, in his grace, and even as in verse 21, the righteousness of God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And yes, this is timeless.

PMcH
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