Last updated: August 29. 2014 2:37PM - 144 Views
The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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Change is inevitable. It is the only constant. Each day moves us forward through the seasons – from the cold of winter to springtime’s flowers – to summer’s play and autumn’s leaves. The cycle then repeats itself, but it is never quite the same.

Change for young people has energy. IP3G is ancient, iP5 is in use, and soon midnight camping at retailers will begin for those wishing to be the first to purchase iP6, the latest of technological miracles. Change in this technology is so frequent that new hardware makes old phones obsolete. For older folk change may be looking for a comfortable walker or resisting the quick movement of their lives from autumn to a permanent cold winter. Change is not always welcome.

Eric Hoffer, philosopher, wrote: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I resonate to this tidbit of wisdom. While I identify myself as one of the “learned,” I have discovered that there is an antidote for the consequences that befall the learned. It is to continue to be a learner. Professors have discovered this. Instead of relying on thumb worn yellow sheets of past lectures for current students, they pursue research and discover new perspectives regarding their subject. As learners they continue to be part of those who inherit the earth, at least for the present moment.

St. Paul among other early Christians had to deal with inevitable change especially in his understanding of God. With the ministry of Jesus a new covenant with God was initiated that was to be observed beyond strict obedience to the moral law of the past. Jesus extended the meaning of love. Do what love demands even if the letter of the law is surpassed. Jesus’ ministry motivated Paul to look beyond his training as a learned Pharisee. It became Paul’s desire that the Jewish people also live beyond their traditional understanding and find new life in Jesus. Paul acknowledged in Romans that as Israelites they had been adopted by God and that “the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” belonged to them. But there was more to understand with the coming of the Messiah – Jesus. Paul’s hope and that of the early Jewish followers of Jesus was that the new leadership of Jesus would supersede that of the scribes and Pharisees. Could the learned Jewish community continue to learn, to change, and to become recipients of the continuing revelation of God?

That is our challenge as well. Some resist change and seek to preserve the world of the past. “Fundamentalists in every religion cling to the old forms of worship and oppose the changing of social morals.” The sociologist Richard Antoun defines this fundamentalism as “an orientation to the world, both cognitive and affective…[that] indicates outrage and protest against (and also fear of) change.” New understandings are often considered evil and those who follow such teachings are deemed heretics. Yet for Darwin, adapting to change was critical. As he wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” (See E. Hays, Book of Wonders)

In the Bible we find positive messages relating to change. In The Revelation to John the author has a vision of the new Jerusalem and the renewal of creation. He writes, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:3-5)

We have at least two ways to deal with change. We can resist it or live into those things being made new. These are personal choices and choices we make in the religious community. Some, for example, have struggled to accept the all inclusive love of God. There is a tendency to make exceptions to the rule. But wherever we are in this process, we strive to honor the baptismal vow to “respect the dignity of every human being.” Some find this difficult. For others it is a message of good news — an acceptance of their humanity.

Good luck adapting to change.

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