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Reflecting on Transition

The word transition really means change: moving from one phase to another.

A reality of life is that we are always in transition, we are always moving to being tomorrow what we were not yesterday. Sometimes that is fun and exciting, sometimes those transitions raise regrets. When you are young and learning to make your body and mind capable of new things it can be thrilling. When you pass midlife, and are learning you are not capable of things you could do in the past, that can be chilling.

Healthy people live well with change. Unhealthy ones tend to deny it is happening and resist its forces. Cosmetic surgery is chosen by some as a way of denying the reality of physical changes time brings in the human body. Red sports cars are chosen by others to try regain a sense of what was lost. Healthy people learn to work with what they have, and properly mourn any unavoidable losses transition brings rather than deny them. Something happens deep inside of them that allows them to live on with grace.

When we get to following the people of Israel’s Transition/Exodus journey from Bondage under Not-God to Freedom with God, we will see that they were not good at Transitioning gracefully. And hopefully we will learn something for ourselves.

In the church it sometimes seems we fight change harder than anything else, even harder than we work against our sinful worldly nature.

If you think about it, the word “Reformation” also represents change. It means constantly evaluating life and our practice of Christianity with the Word in our hand  and on our minds (Sola Scriptura) and the Spirit whispering into our ear and souls as we look around and read the culture looking for effective ways to express our faith (Faith alone) in Christ (Christ alone) and our gratitude for God’s Grace (Grace Alone) so we can bring glory to God alone. Yet we act as if the change has been completed and no further reformation needs to take place. And others call for changes that are merely cosmetic.

And if you think about it some more, the word “Christian” means change as well. (I’m on a roll here!) Our aim in following the Way of Jesus Christ is to let his Word and Spirit mold us more and more into his likeness. If that does not mean change…

The next word that comes to mind naturally is “Church” and I can’t make that represent change. It is an institutional word, a structural word, and as such it creates rigidity and sameness. Except that it is made up of the gathering of those in the process of change — of spiritual growth.

Our very human nature, when it is not embracing the reality and necessity of change, seeks comfort, and it finds that comfort in ritual, in repeated actions, in sameness. None of those are wrong, they can be a great help, but over time the depth of meaning that was found in the ritual, the repeated words, the repeated actions, is not passed on to the next generation. They do not find comfort in them, and reject them. And, sometimes the old ways prove to be insufficient, prove to be lacking, inadequate to deal with a new reality, as the world around us and the church keeps changing. So we have to watch out for false comfort being found in ritual and tradition that have lost meaning, and we need to find the original meaning back, and then help new generations create rituals that help them access that meaning and retain it. We need to keep reforming our practices around the meanings.

Nobleford CRC has been through a 100 year phase of experiencing God’s blessing. God’s blessing is still experienced by her beyond that, even today. But some of her ways of doing things led to a poor result in a relationship with a pastor, and a painful outcome. A healthy approach to transition, to change, will go back and look at all that to change the way things are done with the goal and hope of a better outcome in the future. That examining and reorienting at a deeper level and at a structural or process level is what the Specialized Transitional Ministry is all about, at least as I practice it. The soon-to be-gathered Transition Team will lead that reflection and discernment process for this congregation with my coaching.

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