The big word we dread hearing nowadays as much as ever?
To be alive is to be in a state of flux, of continual growth, of evolution...of change.
The illusion I too often indulge myself with as I face life is that somehow I can keep things the way they are. Or, better yet, maintain them as they were. We should be able to hold to those moments, yes? They are what make us who we are. They give us a sense of meaning. They provide a feeling of comfort and safety, apart from those other moments when we feel threatened or undone by chaos and disorder. They provide a sense of identity. We want to stand on that ground because then things made sense.
Unlike the now of things, wherein we are never quite sure...and thus fear that we might never be assured of our safety, our well-being, our self-preservation.
What will happen? Something that our previous experiences might have prepared us for, but that will require of us a flexibility to grow and evolve into a new space that we will inhabit but won't recognize until we get there.
Our challenge as the Church is to realize that all we have been is not something we can adhere to because it offers creature comfort. It is a tradition that reminds us to be open to what is about to happen in our midst. If we commit to always becoming what God is willing us toward, then what is past is a more a collection of lessons to recall and learn from, rather than patterns to keep at all costs. We can't live over and against the present. Rather, we are called to embrace it...even when it rocks our world, our perceptions, our sense of ourselves.
That is where I find myself as I ponder preparing for our church's celebration of the Feast of Pentecost this coming Sunday. We are preparing for a remembrance of a day that defined us as "church," whereupon the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and invigorated the church as a mission-driven, evangelistic organization that is always seeking out new ways to be the Body of Christ, and to serve the world in Jesus' name. Did those apostles wake up that morning ready for that dramatic change? Probably not. Would they have chosen to see the Spirit manifested as gouts of flame resting on their heads? No sane person would want fire that close to their skull.
And yet, when change came, they embraced it and thus we have the church.
It didn't get any easier....for it wasn't too long after that moment that they were challenged with the admittance of some Gentiles to the fellowship. Talk about change....and then? The mission expanded beyond Judea to the surrounding provinces...and then beyond those provinces to the edges of the known world....and beyond....and always the Church was changing, growing, reforming, transforming.
And now, it comes to us in our generation. The Church stands at the threshold of a new age in which what we have been able to assume about being church is being challenged by an evolving society, by evolving technology, by evolving climate, by world that is changing dramatically and daily around us. How can we persist? How might we survive?
By doing two, very simple things that if done faithfully will guide us through all the anxiety, trepidation and worry that we won't "make it." They are these:
- Break it down into manageable bits. Nothing can be done all at once, and no obstacle is overcome in one, fell swoop. It happens when we deliberately and lovingly break it down.
- Trust. Trust in God. Trust your beloved. Trust your leaders. Trust....gulp....yourself. Trust that God is with us, and that we can't all be perfect....but we can help each other strive to improve our state of being, our church, our society and our environment.
Sound simple? It is...and yet it is also the heart's core of where we stumble and fall. We try to take it all on/in at once when change looms, or is imperative. We fail to trust because those we have trusted in the past stumble and fall when changed loomed in the past.
Pentecost stands there for us as a reminder that change can, and with God's grace does, draw us into new, trans-formative and powerful witness to a God who creates, redeems and sanctifies us continually.
Change happens...and in Christ, we are ready to embrace it, grow and learn....so that we are ready when the next wave of grace crests and draws near.