Kindness never goes out of style. People have always appreciated patience and perseverance too. How we express these virtues changes over time though. I admire my teenage daughter’s calm composure when her text message takes more than a split second to send.
I’ve been thinking all about change, and in particular the need for change in the church, since Pastor John asked us (in the SHLC October newsletter) to consider these things. What changes do we need to make at SHLC in how we share the love of Jesus with people today? I’m glad that Pastor suggested we also think about the things we share together that are unchangeable.
After all we don’t make change just for its own sake. We have a reason to change. We make strategic changes. Change happens eventually whether we make it or not, and in the midst of change it’s important to identify all that we retain.
Membership comes to mind.
The church has always been and always will be the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-3). Paul compared it to the members of an actual body – foot and ear and eye – in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12). He talked about differentiation, and at the same time about unity. I think it was C.S. Lewis who also described the church as a group of people who are extremely different and yet harmoniously united.
And what else would we expect, really, from a people of “all nations” (Genesis 22:18) who are now “children of God” (1 John 3:1), “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…” (Galatians 3:28)?
The bodies that occupy our worship space here at SHLC on Sunday have changed over the years. People have come and gone, and some have passed on.
We dress differently now. I like knowing I can come to church in my jeans today and no one minds, though I think the pretty dresses and hats women wore to church years ago are classic. I’m glad the young women today have found their own style, and we are all just trying to connect with fashion in some way, still I do prefer that vintage look to the modern ‘Bohemian’.
May I not covet (too much) those things that belong to the past.
We have some babies in the pews now at SHLC, and I wonder sometimes how they will grow and what they will add to our harmonious differences (and what they will be wearing 20 years from now). New ideas, new inspirations and innovations – it’s all so exciting to think about. It’s also amazing to think that we continue to be united with everyone who has ever gone before us in Christ.
There is an indelible link between us all, even as we move forward and change.
It is a bit paradoxical to think that we exist as one perpetually changing body in Christ for the set purpose of preserving and passing on a message that will never change:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
How we present that message changes over time, of course. We don’t use hymnals in worship anymore, but rather a computer projector and screen. Music and prayers change, except for a few special exceptions. I often look up Bible verses on my phone now for convenience, though I still use my printed Bible for morning devotions (because I so love turning the actual pages). And I can’t talk about my faith with people in the larger community the way I used to years ago, when everyone knew basic things about Christianity. I need to be more creative now, with God’s help!
I like that our pastors are preaching the same message this month that Luther preached 500 years ago: Christ, grace, faith, and God’s Word – alone – and Glory to God alone! But I am also glad to hear them apply it to me and my world today. I’m thankful, and I praise God for the time and energy they put into keeping the message true, and also relevant.
Museum staffers need to find ways to preserve ancient artifacts, and to present them in new ways to changing audiences. But as Christians, we work to connect people to God’s living and dynamic Word which reveals things hidden in the past, leads us boldly into the future and at the same time is here and now, all around us and at work in us and through us.
The Word changes us.
Sometimes I’ve found it’s a matter of trying not to get in the way of change! My daughter went off to college last month and, though I fought it in my heart and tried to deny the inevitable all summer, in the end I just needed to step aside and let her go on to her new life.
The church’s job has not and will not change: “go and make disciples…,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:19). Our job is to figure out how we make them, how we welcome new members into the body of Christ, in this day and age. As we work together now to determine how we need to change, we can take comfort in knowing that the One we worship – who guides, empowers and sustains us – Himself is the same “yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)