From the Book of Acts:
“I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them — in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Acts 5:38-39 (NRSV) – June 25, 2013.)
The Pharisee Gamaliel gave sound advice to the Sanhedrin: “Leave them alone. If their movement is of God, you will not be able to stop it.” It’s advice the church, which benefited from it, has often failed to heed. We ought to follow it more often than we do . . . but there is that other rule the church more frequently follows: “Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored.” (Often attributed to an otherwise unidentified Victorian-era “Duke of Cambridge.”)
Episcopalians are said to be the poster children for this rule. The old joke asks, “How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?” . . . .
“Change! My grandmother gave that lightbulb!”
None of us are really comfortable with change. I suspect that most people, if they had their druthers, would just keep things mostly the same. For most of us the status quo is comfortable and staying the course gives us a sense of security. A read recently about a guy who bought a new radio, brought it home, placed it on the refrigerator, plugged it in, turned it to a station coming out of Nashville, home to the Grand Ole Opry, and then pulled all the knobs off. He had he wanted and had not intention to change.
But life without change isn’t life. It’s death. If there is one constant in this world it is that living things change; only lifeless things are static. And life, as Scripture tells us, is God’s will for God’s People. Isaiah prophesied, “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.” (Isa. 65:20)
Take heed of Gamaliel’s words to the Sanhedrin. Change is evidence of life, and life is the will of God, so change may be of God and, if so, you will be unable to overthrow it.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.