Today’s Readings: Psalm 50; Amos 3:12-4:5; Matthew 21:23-32; 2 Peter 3:1-10
I was blessed by the opportunity to have a conversation with two folks yesterday about some of the challenges of living out one’s faith in the context of a faith community/church. One of the greatest challenges, I shared, is dealing with the issue of change.
It took me a while to learn that when it comes to organizational/systemic change, there are at least two different kinds involved (there are actually many more than just two, but for the sake of time I focused on two). The first kind of change is what I would call cosmetic change. This is change that occurs on the surface of an organization. It’s the easiest type of change to live through because the ramifications of it are relatively minimal. The second type of organizational change is what I call cultural change. This is change that touches the core values of an individual and/or an organization; therefore, these changes are incredibly loaded and tend to elicit strong reactions.
The hardest part about living in a faith community/church is that you can’t always predict what sort of change category an action will fall under. Let me give you two examples of what I mean. Let’s say a pastor comes in and changes the song that is sung in response to the offering (traditionally called the Doxology). On the surface this might be read as touching on a deeply held value and therefore be seen as a cultural change. The congregation, however, might not think it that big of a deal and actually like the melody of the new song better than the old. It could therefore end up being a cosmetic change. Now let’s say a new person steps forward to chair the faith community’s/church’s Nominations Committee. This person nominates Steve (a person who arrived in the faith community/church six months ago) to serve as chair of the Membership Committee. The new chair might think this is a cosmetic change since its simply attaching a new name to a leadership position. Others in the church might violently react against Steve’s nomination to the leadership position, however, because his nomination violates a deeply held (but often unspoken) value of the community – that only people who have been in the church over a decade are qualified to lead. You can see why leading a faith community can be so dicey. It’s hard to predict how changes will be seen.
So what does all of this have to do with any of today’s readings? Well, as I read some of the words from 2 Peter today, the issue of time – and our expectations about how things are supposed to unfold – is placed in a challenging light. “With God,” the author noted, “one day is as good as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day” (2 Peter 3:8 from The Message). I find the reading challenging because it reminds me that things often won’t occur according to the timelines I would expect. Things I perceive as cosmetic changes (in either an organization or in my own life) seem to end up taking FOREVER while things I perceive of as cultural changes can surprise me and end up happening overnight. The lesson in all this for me is to let go of my expectations and live into a less temporally bound/driven place (at least by my own standards).
So how do you deal with the issue of time? Do you expect things to unfold on your timeline, or are you open to the idea that things may unfold on a radically different timeline – one that is not your own? Til next time…