I wonder how you feel about change. Some people find it really exciting and wonderful, to be embraced. Others find it scary and unpredictable. Others yet simply find it overwhelming as if someone has pulled the rug out from under their feet. In some ways human beings haven’t really changed all that much and perhaps the author of Ecclesiastes is right when he writes there is nothing new under the sun. Many of the challenges we face are the same as faced by previous generations. True the tenor of the challenge might be different but the bottom line is often the same.
For example over the generations we have debated and come to agreements on the place of slavery, race, children and women in church and society. Now we are dealing with the question of sexuality (some might say – finally!). At the root of all these changes have been how we treat the ‘other’ in our understanding of human relationships. All of these debates have been held in the secular world as well as the religious world. And none of these debates were without pain and hard work – and with much crossover between secular and religious for all Christians must have a foot in both worlds as Scripture says.
Or what about money? Scripture is full of quotes – Money is the root of all evil. You can’t serve two masters – God and money. Culture has long placed significance in wealth. We publish rich lists and talk about what footballers and movie stars earn. We moan about the bonuses of those in the financial world or the ridiculous profits of companies who take our money and rarely give back. Within the Church we moan about money going into a black hole in the Head Office. We hate the Stewardship Campaign or the tithing sermon that encourages us to give more realistically to God’s work. However now the Church faces a significant shortfall in its funding. We can’t afford all our ministers. On one level – so what? Very few organsiations have survived intact or flourished greatly in recent economic times. People have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts and the Church is not immune. But when the door of your church is one of the ones to be closed in order to save the Church as a whole – what then?
There is a lot of change on the horizon within the hallowed walls of the National Church. But is change such a bad thing?
- Imagine for a moment if Jesus had decided that it really wasn’t a good idea to annoy the Church set-up of the day.
- Imagine if he had backed down and said he would tone down his message and stop upsetting the apple cart.
- Imagine if he went with the status quo and ignored the outcast, the leper, the sick, the dying, the poor and so on.
- Imagine if he hadn’t trusted the man off the street with his message and had stuck to the educated elite.
- Imagine if he had turned his back on the cross because it was too difficult a path to travel.
Jesus broke new ground with his message. He told everyone about God – men, women and children, Jew and Gentile. No one was excluded. He told them that God loved them and that God had a wonderful plan for all humanity. He took away the special status of the religious elite and gave to all who would believe. He taught us to pray to Abba Father – Daddy in our language. He didn’t cut corners and he didn’t tailor his teachings to be socially acceptable. He told the truth even when it was hard to hear. But he showed great love and great compassion even to those in sin. Think of the story of the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery. He took time to teach fishermen and tax collectors his message and they became his voice after his ascension. And most importantly he did not shy away from the cross – not just its pain and suffering but the utter disgrace it was to hang there. Oh yes Jesus broke new ground – not destroying the old but building on it and changing it for the better.
We may well be about to break new ground. We won’t be destroying the old but we have to change it for the better. And we might not immediately like where God is leading unless you find change exciting and exhilirating. The months that lie ahead will be very telling about our faith and our understanding of God. So remember that no matter what happens – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And God will always have the final word – I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
How do you deal with change?
And will you pray for the Church of Scotland?