Keep the Change

Keep the Change June 7, 2008

Sometimes I wonder.  What version of reality was it, do you think, in which I had enough thought to carry through the impetus of applying to do doctoral work?   I’m celebrating the end of my last Doctor of Ministry class, which sounds really great until you consider that “end” also means “beginning”: final assignments for classes, requirements for that one last independent study, and, of course, that annoying little final project.Perhaps it wasn’t reality at all.  Perhaps it was a break with reality. Whatever you want to call it, I’m back now, back to juggling furiously and looking desperately for little moments of joy, rest and possibly even inspiration. In the meantime, it’s back to the blog:




I had lunch a few weeks ago with my friend Heather Entrekin, whose sabbatical adventures are chronicled here on her blog. The first part of Heather’s sabbatical brought her to Washington, DC, to become part of Calvary for a few weeks and to think from the pew about what it means to be Christian community. Her presence was like a steadying hand while crossing a rickety bridge. She would be there, calm as could be, looking out over what she saw with eyes that said she knew what it felt like to be out there over the rushing water trying to keep your balance. That was a gift.

We planned some time together before she left, and, predictably, she had her notebook and pencil ready, with questions she’d jotted down ahead of time. After observing our community for six weeks she had some excellent insights, but one question caught me off-guard. She asked me, “What would you change about Calvary if you could?”

Now the combination of my own God-given talent of offering an opinion on just about any subject you can think of, combined with the huge change this congregation had hoped to undergo when I came and is, in fact, undergoing right now would lead any thinking person to conclude that Heather would have to shut me up after asking me to answer this one.

The strangest thing happened, though. I jumped right in to answer her . . . but I couldn’t think of anything.

Those of you who know me and know Calvary will share my surprise. I am a pastor who talks about vision and change and future and possibility all the time; I rarely see what’s right in front of me, preferring instead to imagine what might be just around the corner. Change is the currency of my economy; it’s what I expect, pray for, long for, hope for.

And yet, when she asked what I would change . . . I couldn’t think of one thing.

After sitting speechless for a few minutes (save the comments, please) I finally managed to mumble something about the church constitution, which is rather cumbersome and out of date. And around which I will freely admit I would love to see some change.

But all I could really think of while I sat there trying to answer took the form of something like a slide show. I kept seeing faces of dear people. I kept remembering sensations-the warm water of the baptistery; the squeeze of a hand at the door; the sweet smell of a new baby held close, being dedicated. My mind kept skipping over the hard and painful parts of life together and landing instead in all those precious memories of worship shared, milestones celebrated, practical jokes cleanly executed and love . . . love all over the place.

My reaction startled me, but it also rolled over me like such a balm. It made me think that all this energy and worry I apply toward the day to day dramas of church actually . . . probably . . . do not, at the end of the day, make up the whole of what it means to live in Christian community on the corner of H and 8th NW.

I’m not wholly ready to tell Heather she can keep the change-I’m becoming more and more convinced that living in Gospel community means being ready to move wherever God’s Spirit leads. But today I can stop for a moment and give thanks for all that makes up the body of Christ here at Calvary, aware that when you step back and look at the whole experience of life together in this place, the overwhelming thread that runs through everything-the old, the new and everything else-is the hopeful Gospel message. And that is something I hope never, ever changes.

Thanks be to God.


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