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United Reform Baptist Church . Lichfield
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Marcel Proust's celebrated series of novels, Remembrance Of Times Past, begins with the eating of a small cake, the taste and smell of which transport him back to an earlier time and bring to his mind memories which have long lain hidden in his subconscious. We all have such memories, I'm sure, and for me this time of year seems the richest seam to mine for them. Autumn always transports me back to my childhood and fills me with a strong sense of nostalgia for my primary school days.

The smell of fallen leaves and beech nuts; the cold, sharp tang of autumn air; the scent of damp washing drying by the fire; the welcoming warmth of the sitting room after a wet walk home; the taste of buttered crumpets - all these sensations bring with them other, less tangible, memories of family and school life, memories of a simpler age, with no responsibilities and little awareness of the world beyond the end of our street.

Of course, it wasn't a simpler age by any means. There were the same anxieties about making ends meet, about the possibility of crime, about new technology (how to tune the television to BBC2), about the threat of war (in Vietnam or Cuba or Eastern Europe). It was just that, at the age of seven, I could leave those anxieties to the grown-ups. The desire to relive the past is perhaps not so much a hankering after particular sensations as a wish to return to a worry-free existence.

L P Hartley once wrote that "The past is a foreign country", and someone else added, "to which we can never return". It's all over. We can try to summon up the memories, but we can never again experience it fully. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that we cannot live on memories nor sustain ourselves on past glories - "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past". The Christian God is a God of transformation. He moves us on. In the next sentence he says through Isaiah, "See, I am doing a new thing". God is in the business of renewing us and making us more like him. That was the purpose of Jesus' coming into this world. Enjoy your memories, but don't make them simply a place of refuge from the concerns of the present. Trust in God and allow him to take you forward.

Rev Ian Hayter

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Last updated: August 26th, 2016
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