We opened the church office again today after more than a year of being closed. I took a deep breath and walked inside knowing there were a piles of details needing my attention. The phone messages all have to be changed. The web site has to be changed… again! There are groups to be contacted to invite back into the building and church groups that will be wrestling with whether it is better to come back in person or easier to meet online. In the meantime, we are delighting to be worshipping in person outside, but I am already working toward the next change to in person inside the building. And it occurred to me this morning that Jessica, who has been our administrative assistant now for a year, has never run the church from inside the building. She has new things to learn while we are in the midst of yet another transition! (I trust you all to be patient.)
For people who don’t like change, this year has been nothing short of traumatic. I know our staff is weary of transitions. We just get reoriented to a new way of doing things and wham! We have to figure out a new pattern and a new plan. I have always weathered transitions pretty well personally. I like the adventure of things that are new, but I will admit, even I am tired of transitions. I’m ready for stability!
I’m not sure, however, that seeking stability is possible. Change seems to be essential to life and growth. Many years ago I heard the Interim professor of Theology and Ethics give his retirement speech at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Winters had arrived at the seminary some 12 years prior to teach for 18 months – 2 years in the area of Theology and Ethics. Now, 12 years later he was finally retiring and hoping the seminary would finally hire a permanent professor for his position. I remember his retirement, however, because of something he said in his speech. Laughing about how long his time of transition had been, he said, “You know… we are all interim. We all are temporary in the place of life we hold. We are growing from the people we have been into the people we will be. None of us are permanent.”
The prophet Isaiah says something like this in one of the great prophecies of hope. He writes:
6 A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40: 6-8)
Maybe that doesn’t seem entirely hopeful to you. That’s because I haven’t included the larger context which reminds those of us who wither like grass that the Lord God comes with might. He will come as a shepherd to feed the flock and gather the lambs in his arms. In the midst of our temporary, brief lives, God is permanent and promises to gather and protect his children who are not so permanent.
In these days of more transition than we want, I try to remember that God carries us in his arms. We take these changing days one at a time and watch for God’s leading as we step forward into the unknown… again.
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