01/04/22 • Dave Tubby
Building anew - April blog
I wonder what makes the North East so special for you. Perhaps it’s the beautiful beaches, rugged landscapes or generous people. For me, one of the many jewels in the crown for this little corner of paradise is Hadrian’s Wall.
Whether it’s one of the more famous landmarks like Housesteads, Birdoswald or the iconic Sycamore Gap, the whole structure was an astonishing feat of engineering from 1900 years ago. I had the joy of walking it recently, and found it to be a really refreshing experience.
If you walk some of the middle stretch, a significant part of it has been rebuilt. That work began in the early 19th century when John Clayton, the Town Clerk of Newcastle, began buying parts of the land around the wall in order to preserve the landscape. Having done so, he began rebuilding large sections of it for miles, chiefly around the Chesters Fort section. He continued investing well into his 90s, and that work was then continued, particularly in the 1930s and 1980s.
Rebuilding the wall was no small feat but it means that miles and miles of the wall now are both a mixture of old and new.
This is a familiar story with the wall in Jerusalem, in the Old Testament. Having been carted off to exile by the Babylonians, Nehemiah was one of those who returned, having been convicted by God to rebuild the city wall. Jerusalem had laid in ruins for 70 years, as a marker of how powerful the Babylonians were.
But Nehemiah knew God to be bigger, so set about doing His work. Residents built the bit just outside their homes, and it took just 52 days to complete the work!! The wall was rebuilt using a mixture of the previous rubble that had been laying abandoned and was mixed with new rocks to build something new. Its structure was a new shape and format to that before, with parts that were both familiar and different.
This strikes me as a metaphor for church today. After two difficult years of pandemic, we are also rebuilding. Parts of this feels familiar, but we are also using new bricks. Just like Clayton and Nehemiah before us, what we are rebuilding is also new. At Heaton, we have been blessed with many new faces over these last two years, with new groups and ministries springing up, whilst some of what we remember from church before looks and feels different now.
It's important for us to not try and rebuild things as they were. Because the bricks we are using are both old and new, and God is doing something new in this season. This can take courage because we naturally want things to be like we remember nostalgically. It can also provide us exciting opportunities to dream and to explore.
God lays chapters on my heart for different seasons of ministry, and He has laid Isaiah 43 on my heart for this time. The key verses of 18-19 feel prophetic words for us today: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?’
So as we look forward, we follow Nehemiah’s example, and build prayerfully, guided by God and with His masterplan to shape our next move. Let’s celebrate the new thing that God is doing in us and be ready to use His bricks – both old and new – to build creatively for His glory.