Be Changed

by The Rev. Dr. Jason L. Parkin, Rector

The artist, the educator and the therapist walk different paths in different ways, but those paths meet at an intersection where the street sign says: You must change your life. For we do not go to the artist, the educator or the therapist to remain the same; we go to them to be given the vision and the tools to go on, and to go on is always to change.
                                                                         Michael Ventura, Teacher as Healer

I think Michael Ventura's provocative words are accurate and true: there are certain places, and certain people, and certain organizations or experiences that exist to bring about some sort of change or transformation. And I believe his words could be applied to the Church, as well: we don't go to artists, educators, therapists - and here is where I would add "and Church" - to remain the same. We go to Church because we want to change.

Actually, that expectation may not be true in all faith traditions or religious enterprises. Perhaps some people somewhere go to church precisely to remain the same, to have preconceptions and prejudices affirmed, to be told that their black and white judgments line up quite nicely with the Lord's. But I don't think that that predisposition is true at Holy Comforter. Hailing from a dynamic expression of Christianity, we know that while life is beautiful, it is also incomplete, and that while we are capable of many things, making ourselves whole is not one of them: being healed, and being restored to right relationship with each other and with God, is not something we can do on our own. We come to Church to be changed.

Such transformation can take place out of the blue, due to a word in a hymn or a scripture passage that suddenly means something different to us, and opens a window into God's presence in our lives. We can be changed by experiencing the bread and wine of the altar unexpectedly in a fresh way, as if partaking of it for the first time. Over time, friendships and relationships forged on altar or flower ministry, or in the choir, or in teaching church school, or in going on a mission trip cannot not alter our way of seeing one another and God. Our souls and spirits can be renovated through a moment of service or compassion, or through regular, consistent exposure to common prayer and sermons and the sacred word of God. If we are open to the movement of the Spirit in our lives, we will find ourselves made different.

We are likelier to be changed by Church if we actively invest in the community of faith. Children, whose character, grounding, and relationship with God are so critical to so many of us, are much more apt to be transformed if surrounded by other Christian pilgrims on a regular basis. None of us is going to be changed, to grow, to become more and more the people we were called to be in baptism without consistent and regular prayer, worship, community and fellowship. A drop-in faith, a drive-by faith does not allow God to recreate us.

Yes, we come to Church to be comforted, to be nourished, to be strengthened for the days and weeks ahead. But we also come to be changed: to be made whole; to be made new. How will we be transformed in and by God this year?