Reflections to start the week
Monday, September 16, 2013
A Reading from the Gospel according to Dilbert:
“Change is good. You go first.”
So we launch out on another week, recognizing that embracing change is never easy. It’s not always fun. It can be work. Dilbert knew that change came with difficulty in the corporate setting. I know (I suspect you do too) that it’s difficult in religious life, and in religious institutions. A mentor once noted that people in churches always want the church to stay just the way they found it when they first joined, whether that is a matter of decades or days.
I remember that once, serving in another church, I started what I thought was an innovative evening liturgy. We worked hard for months on its distinctive design and premiered the liturgy on a much-advertised Sunday night. Some things worked well. Others not so much. So over the next days, we met and made changes, tweaking the liturgy. (Warning to faint of heart: It can be dangerous to tweak the liturgy.) The next week, the service was a little different, and I think, improved. Yet at the end of the service, I was besieged by several irate Episcopalians who wanted to know why I had made drastic changes, implying those dreaed words that make clergy cringe: “We’ve never done it that way.” Apparently, iron-clad tradition can form quickly. Gather for one liturgy and you can lock in tradition.
I’m struck with how much Jesus spoke about change and transformation and growth. The first words we hear from him in the Gospel of Mark are these: Repent. If that word “repent” conjures up visions of a crazed street preacher with sandwich board predictions of the end, delve into the original meaning, in the Greek, metanoia. It means to turn around, to alter direction, to hang a u-turn. It suggests a journey, which means moving from where you are towards where you want to be. Jesus invited his followers to hit the road with him. He didn’t stay put. They would end up someplace different than where they started. That’s still true.
I recently re-read EVERYTHING BELONGS by Richard Rohr. It’s great. I’d read it a while ago, and had thrown it in my bag on a recent trip at the last minute. I’m thinking the Holy Spirit made me do that, because it was on target for the life I’m living and the work I’m tackling, exploring the spiritual journey and spiritual growth. In that book. Rohr cites Lawrence Kohlberg, who writes about levels of moral development. Kohlberg says that in the spiritual journey, we move from one level to a level we don’t completely understand yet. Every step up the ladder is taken in semi-darkness by the light of faith. The greatest barrier is our comfort and control at the level we are at now. We may respond to the call to a higher or deeper level with anxiety. Instead of saying: “Isn’t this wonderful?” we say “I don’t know if I want to go there.” It’s reminiscent of the wisdom of Dilbert: “Change is good. You go first.”
So let me inquire this Monday morning: where do you want to go in your life of faith, in the spiritual journey? Are you where you want to be? Do you have a sense of the next step on the ladder? Is it veiled in semi-darkness? Do you have some light of faith, a lantern on your path? It’s tempting, but I try not to rehash Sunday sermons in these Monday matters. But yesterday in a sermon, I did include this quote from Annie Lamott printed on the side column. It’s a beautiful picture of how by grace we embrace the new thing God has in store for us.
I believe there is something there for you and me this day, this week. It may or may not be major spiritual renovation. It may be just a tweak. But God calls us through the Spirit to take that next step on the ladder, often in semi-darkness with the light of faith. Go for it.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.