One of my privileges while studying at Regent College in Vancouver was to take some of the last courses ever taught by the great New Testament professor Gordon Fee, including the Book of Revelation (we win in the end!). Even in his 80’s he had the energy of a teenager and he taught with the passion of a fiery preacher, which made even the most technical classes spring to life. But the most enduring thing I learned from him was a little expression he used to say: “there’s no such thing as writing, only re-writing.”
His point was that nothing good ever begins in perfect form. Writing, like building a house, is a process with many different phases: first the creative thinking and drawing, then the roughing out, then the filling in, and then the polishing and refining. This was a truth that I had to learn over and over again in the writing of my own book. Almost everyday I’d need to recall and rehearse that simple wisdom: “there’s no such thing as writing, only re-writing.” And every time it released me from the arid striving for perfection in every sentence — it unlocked fresh creativity and freedom.
I’m hugely thankful to Gordon Fee because that wisdom is foundational to everything we do. What’s true of writing is also true of life and faith. It reflects the reality that we are all on a journey as followers of Jesus. Not yet the finished article, but in process. This gives permission for God’s freedom and creativity to be at play in our lives. It rescues us from the tyranny of perfection; that awful need to project a certain image, rather than the reality of what’s really going on. And that’s where the true meaning of what it means to be a community of faith comes into focus. It’s about developing relationships of intimacy and trust where we get to write and re-write, without the marker’s red pen hovering over the script of our lives.
The same is true for us as a church. It’s all too easy in the modern marketplace that competes for our attention with shiny new objects, to drift towards slick marketing and perfect services as if we will find redemption there. As the image of Jesus walking the dusty streets of the Gospels shows, the Spirit finds expression in the messy, honest reality of people’s lives, en-Spirited and always “on the way.” Our vision is not to be a tidy sort of church at St Paul’s, it’s to be a welcoming and authentic place where people can find home.
So today I encourage you to seize upon that great spiritual truth that in life, as well as in church, there’s no such thing as writing, only re-writing.
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