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Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church – Day 14 – Thursday after 2nd Sunday of Lent

Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church 

Day 14 – Thursday after 2nd Sunday of Lent

changesFrom the Scriptures:

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

1 Corinthians 3.1-3

For Reflection: 

Some years ago, when he was Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams was the keynote speaker at our Diocesan Clergy Conference on the theme of change. With his usual perceptiveness, he turned all our excitement about ‘new’ strategies and ways of being church into serious reflection when he began his speech with a line from a hymn:

          Change and decay in all around I see… 

His point being, and I hear many faithful parishioners cheer, was that change was not a good of itself and we needed to find our security in things which are unchanging – he had recently published his seminal work ‘Lost Icons’. His response to the urgency of the changes facing society and the church was the second half of the hymn line;

         O Thou who changest not, abide with me!

Coping with change in church life is hard work. We grow used to particular ways of meeting and worshipping and fit our lives around them. The phrase, ‘We have always done it that way,’ often used as an example of fuddy-duddedness, is in fact a statement of faithfulness and stability. People clergy should approach it with care and compassion and ignore it at their peril.

If I learnt the words for worship on my mother’s lap from the Book of Common Prayer and the new vicar insists on using the latest liturgy from Church House without explanation or justification, it should be understood that such moves shake the foundations of my belief. If I am used to nursing my child in a café church setting and singing songs to a music group it will be confusing if some worshippers start to look askance at me when my little one makes their presence known and I can’t find my way around the English Hymnal. And do not even start thinking about rearranging the pews, moving the font, or changing the vestments!

Our Beloved meets us in familiar places, at familiar times, and with familiar words, but God’s love is a growing and deepening love that will bring change with it. As we move into adulthood we learn to leave behind, or more correctly build upon, the likes and dislikes of our youth. So too, as we become more mature in the faith we can (if we want to) move on from the baby steps of the Gospel into a greater freedom.

Like it or not change happens. When we hold on to the form of something that was precious in the past, and do not let it grow within us, we run the risk of turning our acts of worship into idols instead of signposts on the journey home. Sadly, when we make resisting change into the chief aim of our faith then we turn the House of God into a primary school playground and ensure any ‘victory’ to be pyrrhic.

The answer to change is to return to the unchanging and spend time in the presence of the One Who Loves us Best.

          O Thou who changest not, abide with me! 

In the early 1990’s, I was privileged to be the vicar of Belgravia in Eastern Johannesburg. The petty rules of Apartheid had begun to break down and we quickly became a parish were people of many colours from different tribal and language backgrounds gathered. This meant change, good change for which we had hoped and prayed for, but nonetheless hard change.

One stalwart parishioner coped with all the changes that came along until we used more than one language in our worship. It went hard with him when we began sharing the Peace using Zulu words, singing a chorus in seSotho, or encouraging everyone to say the Lord’s Prayer together in whichever language they preferred. He would storm out of church in the middle of the service each time something changed. Thankfully, though it was hard work for me, he would not leave it at that. For weeks on end he would appear at my door on a Monday morning to complain, ‘In the Anglican Church we pray in English!’ and tell me other reasons why the changes were wrong.

We prayed together during those weeks, and he continued to leave church during the service. Yet, each week it was a little later in the liturgy, until eventually he learnt that God held him safe regardless of the many changes happening in the church and country he loved and we were able to say to each other ‘ukuthula, peace’. 

For those of us frightened of letting go of former ways of worship and of being church, this is our comfort.

          O Thou who changest not, abide with me! 

Also for those of us desperate for change this is our hope and promise.

          O Thou who changest not, abide with me!

Until, please Lord, that day comes when:

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15.52

 

For Prayer:  

Where the church is corrupt, O Lord, cleanse it,

where it is lacking, enrich it,

where it is divided, grant it love,

where it has lost the capacity to witness to Christ, bring it back.

KH Ting, China

  

To Do:

  • If you worship in a ‘contemporary’ church setting visit a

‘traditional’ one.

  • If you worship in a ‘traditional’ church setting visit a ‘contemporary’ one.

  

Acknowledgements:

All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J

Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.

Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017

 

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