“You know, it’s like I always said… the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
These were the final words spoken in my favorite television series of all time, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. After seven years of stories, conflicts, battles, and drama, the space station called “Deep Space Nine” comes to a place of peace and stability. The local bartender (a Ferengi named Quark) finds himself tending to his shop there once again as he had done for many years. And as the final episode draws to a close, Quark speaks the above words, which has become a favorite quote of mine over the years.
Life is full of transitions and adjustments. We leave one place or situation in life, and we move on to other challenges. One relationship ends, and another begins. Sometimes, when we’re experiencing many changes, we can feel a little out of sorts – as if the world is somehow unstable or unpredictable. For some people, this kind of unpredictability can be invigorating and exciting. For others (like me), big changes are a bit stressful.
I’ll admit, I am experiencing a number of transitions in my own life right now. More accurately, my own life is fairly stable right now, but many people around me are moving in various directions. These transitions are proving to be a bit stressful for me, as some of them may be for you as well. This weekend, my father is retiring from his position as a professor at the seminary where he has taught for three and a half decades – something which is affecting me emotionally more than I anticipated. Our own Lawrence and Jo Adams are quickly approaching their departure date for full-time missionary service in Guatemala. And Jerry Graham has just announced his retirement from his position as our youth pastor, which will take place at the end of July.
Whether it’s a retirement, an unexpected hospitalization of an elderly friend, or the loss of an automobile or pet or job or loved one, change can be a source of stress in our lives. Sometimes that stress can positively motivate us toward actions or decisions, but sometimes that stress can make us long for things as they used to be, in the “good old days.”
We are in one of those seasons as a congregation. Our youth pastor of five years will soon be retiring and leaving our congregation; his wife Connie, who serves as our Director of Outreach and as one of our regular pianists, will be leaving as well. Our relationship with Guatemala will also be changing because Jerry (our mission trip specialist) is retiring – though he has committed to lead a trip for us next year if we so desire – and also because Lawrence and Jo are moving there this summer.
And let me be frank: we are not getting any younger. Of course, time always marches on at a steady pace. Yet many of our church members have belonged to this church for many decades – a reality which we should celebrate! – and we are beginning to realize, as a congregation, that the generations are changing.
We face a temptation in light of these many changes. We can look at our congregation and wish for the past to repeat itself – to yearn for things to stay generally the same, consistent, and stable. We are tempted to say, with Quark of Star Trek fame, “the more things change, the more they [should] stay the same.”
The temptation is to idolize our congregation, to love it because of what it has always been and what it means to us. But when we make an idol of the church, we reject our primary allegiance to God and his kingdom. Things change; things do not stay the same. Pastors come and go; church members live and, honestly, die.
The one unchangeable reality of any Christian congregation is that Jesus is Lord. Hebrew 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The Psalms remind us repeatedly that his love endures forever. Even though circumstances and people change, the Lord remains forever. In him we can find our strength and life and hope.
The challenge, then, for us as a congregation – and really for any congregation at any point in its life – is to stay in step with the Spirit of God, to move with God where God is moving, to stay anchored in Jesus Christ during the necessary and important changes in our lives.
Things may not always stay the same. And that’s ok.
Where is God moving? Let’s get on board and go forward with him into the future that he prefers for us.