Change is traditional. That sounds like a crazy statement, doesn’t it? Generally, we think of change as the very antithesis of tradition. But it’s true. The most traditional thing in the world is change. The earth is in a constant state of flux; always moving, shifting and reshaping. Humans, too, are constantly changing. We are constantly experiencing the world and subtly [and, occasionally, not so subtly] changing and adapting to it.
It’s probably for these reasons we resist change so much. We experience the dynamic movement of the world, of our bodies, of events outside our control to such a degree we want to bring order and control. We feel like the world is chaotic and out of control. We want control. We think we need control to make sense of the world. Yet, change is the most traditional thing we experience.
Churches tend to think of themselves as “traditional” institutions. We like to think of ourselves, to present ourselves, as unchanging. When we use the word tradition at church, change is not one of the things that comes to mind. True, the Gospel doesn’t change, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever,” [Hebrews 13:8] and God is always steadfast. But the parts of the Gospel that speak most powerfully move around. The ways we experience the Gospel, the ways it shapes our lives moves around because of who we are, where we are and the situation of our lives. It’s true, “Jesus is the answer.” But what’s the question? And that question seems to move around a bit more than we think it does.
When we worship there is only one, maybe two things we do on a Sunday morning that the Apostles would recognize. Specifically, the Words of Institution at Holy Communion [In the night in which he was betrayed…] and maybe the Lord’s Prayer [but probably not in the exact form we know it] are about the only things early Christians would recognize. Everything else is different. Everything else has changed over time so we can hear the Gospel speak in our lives. Change is traditional. Even in church.
We live in a dynamic world that can be deeply unsettling. Often, we feel out of control of the situation around us. We all know that feeling of just wanting everything to go back to some special time in the past, some time when it felt like nothing ever changed. But change is the most traditional thing in our experience. In this, Jesus promises to be with us no matter where we are, no matter what happens and no matter what goes on in the world. Jesus’s promise is that he makes and ever-changing world safe because he is there to go through the change with us. Because change is traditional.