The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
Dear People of God:
“Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.” -Richard Hooker
Hooker’s observation is so self-evident as to seem trite. We toss it off without fully examining its import. We give the quick intellectual assent of avoidance precisely because we do not want the inconvenience of change. Not wanting to be inconvenienced by change, we acknowledge, barely, that the maxim is true, and move on, passively avoiding and passive-aggressively resisting change. We express our true preference, which is always to be an agent of change while never being changed ourselves.
Our tradition informs us that change is inevitable. The preface to the very first edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1549) makes plain that our modes of worship will change, that such changes are expected, and that the change process is desirable. The Book’s preface is but one example of how we are called to fashion and re-fashion ourselves in response to the growth and needs of the World where God has set us down. The Book of Common Prayer anticipates with gracious breadth and mature latitude its own evolution far better than we anticipate ours, either as individuals or as the Church.
Truth is, we do not like or seek change. No one seeks change, because the human condition finds a level of comfort with the circumstances and conditions of life, and having found that comfort zone, we maintain those conditions striving for “balance” and “security” when what we mean is “status quo.”
Given how we are, resisting change should feel wildly counter-intuitive but it does not. I say so knowing that the human species is perhaps the finest example of evolutionary adaptation- changing as conditions require it- to be found on the planet. Upright carriage, opposible thumbs, binocular visions…all of these lovely adaptations and many more were derived from conditions we did not seek but were nonetheless what living here required of us.
There is a particularly virulent resistance to change among Church people. On the day-to-day level, we resist the call of the Gospel to seek new ministries and re-tool old ones. We avoid like the plague anything that disturbs or disrupts the comfortable familiar patterns we love. And this resistance writ large manifests itself in our resistance to the life-changes the Incarnation brings. Jesus’ birth is a living example of Hooker’s utterance, and an enfleshed example of the Apocrypha where it says, “…he is inconvenient to us.” Despite our longings for prophecy’s fulfillment, when The Messiah finally comes, He is never quite what we want. When He appears, we assume we get to ask much of Him, and instead He asks something of us. Living in a world that we experience as beyond our control in so many areas, we do not want to be asked to change those areas over which we do have some control (relationships, money, religious practice, appropriate physical self-care, you name it).
As Christmas comes, we are confronted with the inconvenience of The Christ, and we respond by trying to engage instead the manageable-sweet-little-Jesus-boy-in-a-manger. Good preparation during Advent is an examination that sorts out where you are resisting inevitable change in your life, and why. Knowing when resistance to change is Godly, and when it is selfish, is the discernment of a wise heart….and oh so hard that discernment can be!
The quiet expectation…the meditative, reflective moment …the unrushed prayer of Advent gives an opening for this discernment. It teaches something: it teaches that being changed in heart and soul and spirit by The Christ may seem inconvenient, but the alternative is sheer agony- the sheer agony of the Cross, where the unchanged resistance of humanity to God is overcome in the death of the baby whose birth we expect. Our inconvenience at Christmas makes Good Friday necessary. Hmmmmmm. Is there a better way to respond to the changes our faith invites in us?
Love you. See you in Church.
| Sunday Holy Eucharist, alternating Rites I & 2 ~ with music
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
410 South Atlantic Ave
between Atlantic and Beach)
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008