Center Lines - April 2008

I am a creature of habit. I like routines and rituals. Predictability allows me to be productive. I know where "my things" will be when I need them. Knowing "what comes next" makes me relaxed and at ease.

Then again, I like change. I become restless after a year or two in one place or in one job. Change keeps me energized. It pushes me to learn new lessons, new ways of being and doing.

I suppose, then, I am a creature of habit who likes change. Well, I have been accused of many things through the years, but consistency has rarely been among them!

I recently concluded that, for me, the only change I really like is change that I initiate, that I control, over which I have meaningful input. When change is imposed upon me or impinges from outside my sphere of influence, then it becomes problematic. Now I balk. I become nervous and unnerved. I become suspicious and guarded.

We well understand that our world is awash with change. It abounds in our denomination. Ahead of us lies talk of change at General Conference, Jurisdictional Conference and continuing discussions in our own and some contiguous episcopal areas. Change abounds in our country and around the world; election campaigns at home, and shifting situations and circumstances abroad. Change accelerates in medicine, technology, education and religious life. And much of that change is change over which we have little- if any- control.

I suspect I am not alone in feeling nervous and anxious as these shifting trends take root and dwell among us. I need a hand to hold, assurance that the future will be fine. I want to know that there will be "good" on the other side of that which is to come. I would prefer a guarantee, but know I must settle for less.

In a recent issue of Christian Century magazine editor John Buchanan talked about John Updike's poem "Seven Stanzas at Easter" and its resurrection image of walking "though the door." Buchanan writes "Jesus' disciples walked through the door into a new world suddenly full of hope and possibility. Frightened, discouraged, grieving men and women somehow were transformed into brave, hopeful, loving bearers of good news."

We are the same, are we not? Fears, discouragement and grief come face to face with resurrection and, suddenly, the world becomes different and new. At least it can– if we take our faith for real. Buchanan's plea parallels Updike's in the poem. We are encouraged to- if I may use a cliché- "keep it real." Updike implores "Let us not mock God with metaphor ... making of the [resurrection] event a parable; ... let us walk through the door. The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché, not a stone in a story, but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us the wide light of day."

In a world fraught with uncertainties, pains, hurts and injustices we Christians are called to make the resurrection "real." We are called bring about true promise, healing, wholeness and justice. We are called to "walk through the door" of our uncertainties so we can witness to and embody Christ alive, present, and at work here and now.

Nice words. Easy words. As always, to speak is easy. To act is not. To act is risky and the results are rarely predicable. But our faith assures us that a life of Christian discipleship is a path of hope, a path of healing and a path of wholeness. The resurrection promise comes not for us alone, but for the hurting, hungry world around us and the communities in which we find our fields of immediate service.

And so may we, may our churches, may our congregations step forth boldly, go through our doors, move outside, and make our way to those yearning for the gifts of the Gospel and the means of grace which the Church alone supplies.

By: Reverend Mark Marino On 4/15/2008