Can we be honest together? We preachers talk a good talk of change — of resurrection, of journeying in faith, of new seasons, of God’s unfolding work — but when it comes right down to it, we greatly prefer to choose how and when and why change happens in our lives and in our churches; when it comes right down to it, uninvited change often brings much weeping and gnashing of teeth; when it comes right down to it, change is not always a choice and often a shift that transpires under pressure.
This Sunday’s scripture readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are all premised on change, and without negating the many good reasons why we might & should celebrate change, I want to make space in today’s Lectionary Leanings for the mixed feelings of grief and anger and disappointment that can also accompany change.
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Both Samuel and God are described as lamenting Saul’s reign as Israel’s king, the start and ending of which are significant changes in the life of ancient Israel. Samuel doesn’t speak to Saul again — one can imagine that perhaps God doesn’t either — so it isn’t only the loss of a king for the nation but also a loss of a personal relationship for Samuel and for God. (God gets over the grief more quickly than Samuel and moves on to choose a new king.) I wonder if the Israelites experienced this grief as well.
“Some take pride in horses, some in chariots … these will collapse and fall.” Maybe you’ve noticed that people become quickly anxious when their usual icons of strength (financial stability, white privilege, military prowess, biblical certainty, spiritual righteousness, etc.) begin to falter or fail or change. It’s good that we can call on God when we are in trouble — but oh! how often that trouble arises because first we have placed our trust in horses and chariots! How slow we are to change and to place our trust in God!
Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Mark 4:26-34
Let us pray now for the sprigs that are broken off the topmost branches of cedar trees and for the seeds that are scattered across the ground, because the change that accompanies a new planting or a transplanting is monumental. Can the sprig and the seed survive long enough to extend roots? Will they both learn how to grow in the midst of uncertainty? Will they not only grow in change but even thrive in order to bless others?
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Let us be a new creation — yes and amen! — but now preachers, tell the truth in your own spirit: how easily do you embrace newness and conversion in your own life? Are you truly ready for everything familiar to pass away from your life? To be sure, individually and collectively we desperately need God’s new creation to burst into fullness, but the good news of “new” is usually difficult to hear if we are otherwise content with the way things are.
Through the pressures of change, Psalm 92:1-4 & 12-15 in this Sunday’s readings offers a word of reassurance: “God’s love is steadfast and God’s faithfulness is proven. We declare this truth in the morning and through the night! God’s work — yes, the very work that compels change within and around us — is our joy and our song. With our roots clinging to the rock that is the LORD, we pray to change and grow and bear fruit in youth and through old age, in witness to God’s goodness.”
What change is before you, preachers? How are you making room for the grief and the hope that accompany change? Where are you leaning with the RCL texts this week? Please share your wrestling and your inspiration in the comments.