shellsWe are all familiar with things that live in shells. You may have snails in your back garden. You may, like me, have watched shell fish whilst on the beach or scrambling over rock pools. And as you look, you might spot, along the bottom, tracks which, when followed, reveal a moving shell, the creature inside poking out its head in order to shuffle along the floor. The shell provides security. It is somewhere safe, somewhere familiar. Yet to get anywhere, the creature inside has to come out of this safe haven. It has to poke its head out; it has to risk preying enemies in order to survive.

Alas, summers never seem to last very long these days and all too soon the memories will fade and autumn will be upon us. It is a time of year when the trees shed their leaves. They have served their purpose and in order to survive the strictures of winter, the tree must dispense with them. Yet autumn is also a time when new starts are made: a new term, a new school, perhaps a new evening class, maybe even a new church. 

autumn leavesShells. Autumn leaves. New beginnings. What do they tell us? Are there shells in our own lives which have become so safe and so familiar that we have lost the ability to come out of them in order to move on? What new beginnings are we being called to make? What leaves do we need to cast off, both individually and as a community? What direction is God calling us in terms of our spiritual life, our mission, our personal discipleship? What needs to change and what do we need to hold on to? Life remains a journey and for that we have to move on. However, that does not necessarily imply that everything should be “all change”. We are who we are; and we wouldn’t be who we are without all that has gone before. The leaves are cast off, but the tree remains the same; the creature comes out of his shell but the shell is not discarded. The trick is to build on the old, holding on to what is good, discarding what is no longer appropriate and forging something new, something fresh, something to sustain both us and those around us on the next stage of our journey.

There is much that we already do, whether in East Sussex or beyond, whether as a church or within the wider community, which enables people to experience God and glimpse his love, whether we give it that name or not. Yet God has this annoying habit of continually moving us on - from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the safe to the risky, from the known to the unknown. And that call goes to us all, whoever we are and wherever we might be on our spiritual journey, as we are encouraged to become the people God wants us to be. The challenge is to listen, and then to follow.

God bless!