Christmas carols, Easter lilies, table grace, communion cards, friendship pads, coffee hour—our church is full of traditions. From the simple rituals we do daily to the particular ways we celebrate holidays, our lives are influenced by the traditions we’ve inherited. All of these traditions started somewhere, though, as something new—as change. In actuality, we often overlook one of the biggest traditions of our faith: change.
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.” --Genesis 1:1-3
From the very start, everything changes. There was a formless void—a nothing. God didn’t just leave it that way, though. God spoke, and—just like that—there was light. Then there was sky, then earth, then plants, then stars, sun and moon, sea creatures and birds, land animals, and finally, humans. Eventually, God would give a set of laws to God’s people as they wandered the desert. These laws spoke of promise and hope of a future lived in relationship with God and one another. They are part of a dynamic covenant that has been formed and reformed over the ages. Prophets would later come to encourage care of the ignored people of society—to change the status quo.
Hundreds of years later, another person—a man born in Bethlehem—overturned tables of profiteers in the temple and taught about love, care, and forgiveness. Jesus reinterpreted the faith *in the culture and society around him. Jesus’ followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, would start the Christian church.
The changes didn’t stop there, however.
What started out as a movement of followers became more organized and institutional. Those who studied faith fought over what exactly to believe about the Holy Trinity, and a common creed was formed. A collection of sacred writings was gathered and evaluated. The books brought together formed the Bible, which was translated into the common language of Latin.
The change continues. Martin Luther translated the Scriptures into his common language of German, and he returned to the message of forgiveness and salvation by grace through faith. In an age of working for your salvation, Luther’s reading of the Bible returned to the righteousness and forgiveness received through Christ. In the Augsburg Confession, Luther's contemporaries acknowledged the differences of style and practice that occur in the church.*
Today we celebrate a variety of traditions within our faith. We have inherited changes as tradition. As such, we’ve also inherited a tradition of change. The Holy Spirit is still moving—still working. Where this work and change is happening today is for us to discover and to follow.
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” --Isaiah 43:19
* "And it is enough for the true unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, rites, or ceremonies instituted by human beings be alike everywhere." Melanchthon, Augsburg Confession: Article VII, Latin Text, Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, eds., Charles Arand, et al., trans., The Book of Concord (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.