"Change" is on my mind right now. It's dominating all of my available brain cells. Maybe its because we're looking at making some changes at church (children's ministry area/Solid Rock renovation), or because we've hired two new key staff persons in the last six months (a youth pastor and a children's ministry director). Maybe it's because my wife is working again (from home) for the first time in eight years. Or maybe, change is on my mind because I'll have a son in elementary school, and another in nursery school this fall.
My last Senior Pastor, Dick Lyndon, thrived on change. At his funeral, I made it point to tell the hundreds of pastors, DS's, and Bishop in attendance that Dick loved taking the risk that change required. He was a man who spent so much of his time out on the edge, that metaphorically, he owned a condo there. I always admired this quality because churches are filled with people, who, quite frankly, loathe change. They are often quick to voice their dismay and express their displeasure when churches take "right turns" at forks in the road where they expect them to keep traveling straight ahead. Needless to say, Dick took a lot of lumps for his fearlessness. I'm sure that, over time, he will be recognized as one of the greatest pastoral leaders in that church's history, but I'll never forget the price he paid to move it forward so far, so fast.
I think Christians are so afraid of change because, too often, the change experienced turns out to be a lemon. I'm told, for example, by my baby-boomer friends that the profound cultural changes of the 1960's were absolutely necessary in that time and place. Forty years of anti-institutuional attitudes, a struggling war on drugs, and the cost of "free love" however, make it hard to believe, in retrospect, that the kids of that era were really on to something. While I could be romantizing a time and place I only know from "Leave It to Beaver" re-runs, one wonders if another course of action wouldn't have been more prudent than taking large numbers of hallucinagenics and other mind-altering substances to "expand consciousness".
But, it seemed like a good idea at the time.... which is exactly why people distrust change.
I suppose that the key to surviving the inevitable "march of history" is to hang on to principles that are timeless, while adapting to whatever comes down the road. Principles like fervently pursuing justice, mercy, goodness, righteousness and coupling your pursuit of those things with a healthy dose of humility, grace and love will eventually help us muddle through the great questions and technological advances of our age.
That's why Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life.... not because he wanted humankind's advancement in history to cease with him, but because he saw progress to be as inevitable as the destructive way his people dealt with it in his time and place. He could see a world where a man was measured by his character as opposed to his ethnic background ("The Good Samartan"). He begged people to use their strength and belief in the power of the living God, as opposed to destructive violence, to outlast unjust governance because he knew the pain that war brings ("Weeping Over Jerusalem). And, I think Jesus is recorded as having healed as many people as he did because he wanted to open our eyes to the possibilities of human compassion and love, as opposed to the closed-mindedness that forced those that were sick to be forced out of respctable society ("Healing of the Bleeding Woman" and "Jesus Laying Hands On the Leapors"). He saw what was coming, the advances in science, medicine, and technology that have made this world a smaller place, and did the only effective thing the Lord could do with people who had a free will.... maintained what he believed until death, and then didn't let death deter from the message. That way, people could make their minds up for themselves if they thought what he taught had any merit.
Just another sermon from a guy looking forward to going back to work next week.