It has been a season of repairs and replacements in our home. Two garden parasols have broken — one, and older one, repaired with some metal plant stakes to fix two broken aluminium struts, and the other broken beyond my ability to repair, will need to be replaced next season. The rotary clothes line snapped at its base a couple of days ago, and so I bought a replacement, complete with impossible-to-install spike to hold it upright —the instructions described hammering it into the ground, but I guess they did not imagine Oxfordshire clay with limestone bedrock debris as the medium into which it was to be installed! Quite a few hours of digging a very narrow and deep hole (and the blisters to prove it) and the wretched spike finally stood upright just proud of the lawn, and held the weight of the rotary drier. Meanwhile, the plumbers have been in, and while the roofer said he was coming two months ago to re-seat the ridge tiles on our roof, so far they remain decrepit with crumbling mortar, so we are trying another roofer! All rather frustrating, but it goes with the territory of home ownership, as many of the readers of Contact will recognise.
The church has not been immune to such travails, with the lead from the church hall roof stripped and stolen early one morning in August, together with some from the Scout hut. We are exploring alternatives to lead, since we are a sitting target for repeated robbery, but listed building status means we need permission first. At least the Ock Street Centre is looking spick and span, with a first-rate job of redecorating throughout its public spaces, in time for the 20th anniversary celebrations.
Some things can be repaired, while others require replacement. The New Testament describes God’s work in our lives using those two metaphors — some things can be repaired (broken relationships, for instance, as we open ourselves to the grace of God), but the central picture is one of renewal and replacement. God by his Spirit grants us a new life, fashioned after the way of Christ, so that with St Paul we might say “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17). We enter into that new life through faith in Christ and bear witness to it through baptism, and then spend the rest of this earthly life living it. St Paul, again, “You were taught to put away your former way of life . . . and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God, in true holiness and righteousness.” (Ephesians 4:22–23.)
For many of us, too, October and November are times to evaluate what might be saved in our gardens for another year, and what is fit only for the compost heap. Some things will flourish again next year, as the seasons turn, while annuals are, well, just that—beautiful for a summer, but then their reproductive task is done, and they need replacing next year. Knowing what can be saved, and what must be replaced, is an essential insight for every successful gardener. Every Christian, too, as we take a look at what fills our days, and defines our lives, and ask, ‘is this enduring, to be nurtured until it is fruitful again?’ or, ‘is this simply only fit for the compost or bonfire, its removal creating space for something new next year?’ A little gardening of the soul, and some removal of dead wood and that which has done its work, might create the space for the new thing God wants to do in our lives, as another season of the soul beckons us towards God’s good and life-giving purposes.
Whether you are repairing, or replacing, nurturing or removing, God wants us to discover just what the new life in Christ looks like —the new creation that lasts into eternity— and to pursue it for all we’re worth.