PENNSYLVANIA SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
St. Andrew's
United Church of Christ

1320 Spruce Street, Reading, PA  19602-2161
"More than a Century of Service to the City"
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Message From the Pastor

"Out With the Old, and In With the New"

And [Jesus] said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master
of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old." (Matthew 14:52)

When Nicholas Copernicus published his revolutionary treatise asserting that planet earth was not the center of the universe, the work was suppressed by papal authority. When Galileo Galilei confirmed those observations, reasserting that the old Ptolemaic system with all the heavenly bodies moving about the earth was wrong, he was tried twice for heresy. Because the story of the creation of life in Genesis 1 climaxed with the creation of human life as God's crowning achievement, it had become an element of faith that the universe revolved around us! In spite of eventual consensus affirming that Copernicus was right and Ptolemy had been wrong (The Vatican rescinded its ban on Copernicus' work in 1757, some two centuries after its original publication.), there continues a persistent insistence among too many in our modern society that figuratively, at least, the world does continue to revolve around some of us.

The August, 2017, issue of "Opera News" devotes almost all of its editorial content to a special contemporary opera festival to be presented by the Opera Company of Philadelphia in September. The editor opines that this company is at the forefront of the movement to "save" opera as an art form. What is striking about the editor's column, though, is the amazing congruence between his language and that of the folks who have appointed themselves the experts on how to "save" the Church of Jesus Christ in the third millennium.

The underlying premise is the same: modern twenty-first century human beings are so different from those who have gone before that everything about the existing construct--be it the Church or opera or another institution of long standing--must be thoroughly revised and revamped if it is to be revived. In the opera world, as in the Church of Jesus Christ, the prevailing wisdom among the cognoscenti is that we must focus our attention on any new thing God might be doing in our midst, because one who is young and hip and relevant would have no use for something traditional. Contrast that with the pithy observation of the Preacher, ". . . there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:8)

For all of Ptolemy's scientific contributions to humankind, he is remembered today mostly for something that he got wrong. By the same token, Copernicus and Galileo are held in high regard today for their willingness to upset the established order when their research told them that the received wisdom was wrong, even though they were vilified for it in their own time. It is the task of every generation to receive the accumulated wisdom of those who have gone before and combine that with their own observation and insight to produce a synthesis for a new era. It is indeed true that we can see farther than our predecessors because we stand on their shoulders, but it would be the height of hubris for us to believe that nothing they left us is of any use because they could not see everything we see. Likewise, as the possibilities of human knowledge are finite, some humility may be in order. Again, consider the words of the Preacher: "Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother's womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)


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