2 500 years ago there was an exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was a 1000km walk for the Hebrews who found themselves in a strange and foreign land.
Little made sense. All they had been familiar with was no longer familiar. The Temple had gone, destroyed, and God's dwelling place no longer existed. If God's indestructible house was gone, was God dead?
The familiar ritual of religion had been overtaken by Babylonian religion. The priests could not carry out the annual festivals of atonement and passover as they used to do. Did God no longer hear them now they were so far away from their homeland? Was God no longer able to forgive them because they could no longer complete the rituals? What would their future be? Did they actually have one?
They had a choice, as Jack Spong says: they could either let God go, or let God grow.
They chose the latter.
But that meant reinterpreting their stories, finding new meaning in a very different context, finding God in new ways among them when the old and familiar ways were gone. What could still be taken for granted and what was now found to be irrelevant and unnecessary? It meant rethinking what they believed about God and how they understood being God's chosen people. It was root and branch.
How could they worship God in this foreign land as the Psalmist cries? And cry they did. But they found new words, new ways to speak about faith, new understanding and meaning in their stories, new ways to engage with God, speak of God, meet God among them. And it changed them forever.
The Bible we hold in our hands today is the evidence.
This was the result of that new thinking. These are the stories they found made sense to them, gave them new meaning, gave them purpose and calling once more.
Perhaps today we might understand something of that exile.
Will church ever be the same? How do we worship in this strange and foreign land where everything we used to understand who we were, no longer meets that need? When our politics and institutions are broken, what do we turn to to give us meaning?
What must we rediscover, reinterpret, reform, because this is not the first time we have been here. 500 years ago the whole western world was in upheaval with the reformation. Are we there again? Many believe we are, and indeed relish the moment when we can reimagine the church, the stories, the faith, the language we use to make sense once more of who we are in a world facing serious climate change, political uncertainty, religious indifference, and populist politics.
The Babylon Files is our response to the biggest questions we will face in our faith today. An open and honest discussion where there are no holds barred. Every thought is important and heresy doesn't exist.
Tuesday evenings advertised in the bulletin and intimations.