Change comes in many shapes and forms. Terri and I went down to the beach this afternoon. It was low tide, probably the lowest tide we have seen during our few weeks in Lincoln City. The setting had changed dramatically revealing large rocks that had previously been hidden. Our understanding of the coast line and the beach had changed.
Change is all around us. We all notice the change in little children when we haven’t seen them for a month…or a week. “Oh my, how you have changed” is such a common phrase. Change.
Change is often the focus within a political campaign. We are in the midst of one. “My vision of the needed change is better than theirs. My skills to make that change happen are greater than is theirs. Vote for me!!” Change.
Change is what we seek when our physical pain becomes so great we must seek out a physician. The sooner we acknowledge the need (toothache to cancer) and take steps to address that need, the greater the chance that changes for the positive can take place.
Change is also the goal when we examine great social movements. From the foundation of our nation to the civil rights movement to the Arab Spring, something within society was determined to be wrong by a portion within society and the passion of the people rose to such a level that they acted to make it right. Agree or disagree with their motives or their methods but the drive for change reshaped society.
In terms of our faith, the Protestant Reformation was a time of radical and intense change. The Reformers saw the abuse of the Medieval Catholic Church and said things must change. They took the risk of their lives to confront that which they knew to be wrong. Change took place.
Those Protestant Reformers (I like to think of the word protest-ant meaning to protest for not just against something) had a Latin phrase that has become part of Presbyterian lingo over the centuries. It reads:
Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda
It means, “a reformed church always reforming.” As I understand the interpretation of this phrase it means that if we are growing spiritually, if we are walking with God and desiring to love God with all we are then change will be an ongoing part of our journey. Why? Because “we all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No generation, no church gets it 100% right and, since a right relationship with God is the goal, when we fall short we want to reform our ways, we want to change.
This Sunday is Reformation Sunday. It reminds us of our past when people took great risks to confront that which was wrong and build toward that which is right. It should also be a Sunday when we ask ourselves ‘what changes do we need today.’ For me, a key passage of Scripture should shape those thoughts. It is found in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus taught his disciples to pray:
…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
It is this desire for and commitment to the Kingdom of God that should shape the change we pursue in any given period in history. It is this desire for and commitment to God’s Kingdom that ultimately confronts us when our kingdoms get in the way. It is this desire for and commitment to God’s Kingdom that should fill us with awe (we are pursuing something that is much greater than are we) and keep us humble (it is God’s Kingdom not our own). We should be people who are Reformed because we have been open to the transforming work of God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and Reforming because we know we haven’t fully arrived (Revelation 21:1-5). Change.