A u c k l a n d A o t e a r o a N e w Z e a l a n d
a n g l i c a n c h u r c h
August 10, 2003
Ordinary Sunday 19 John 6:37-51
I'm sure you've all heard the joke about Anglicans and light bulbs.
Q. How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb in a church?
A: CHANGE? You want me to CHANGE the light bulb? My grandmother donated that light bulb!!!
I want to make some comments on change this morning, in the light of our AGM after the service. It seems an important theme, and not just because the stereotype of Anglicans is change resistant. Its an important theme because change is the nature of the universe and of life. Someone has said that change is inevitable except from vending machines. More profoundly, someone else said "Change is inevitable, growth is intentional." (Glenda Cloud)
Its an important theme because in our lives we are all on a journey of understanding change; we can choose to be resistant, confused or we can choose to be intentional about our response to change. Its an important theme because as we learn to deal with change, we learn the wonderful art of non attachment which will allow us such power, such open futures, such success.
"If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you aren't afraid of dying, there is nothing you can't achieve." (Tao Te Ching)
The Jesus story is all about change. The whole death to resurrection narrative is one of ultimate change. In particular it is a story about how those very human disciples dealt with change and learnt the hard lesson that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it will not grow. We have the bread image again in our gospel text, and again we are reminded that our communion celebration is a memorial of change, a celebration of the growth which arises out of brokenness.
I heard a parable which describes the process of change and open futures nicely.
A pack of monkeys live in a cage, an unattractive and sparse space. They have no existence outside the cage, but the older monkeys philosophise and wonder about what life is like on the 'outside'. They have given up trying to escape the cage and instead spend their days playing and squabbling for food.
The philosopher monkeys are divided. Some think there is no 'outside'. Some think that good monkeys go to the 'outside' when they die and that bad monkeys are sent to live in the plumbing when the die.
Some of the younger monkeys notice that their food comes into the cage through an opening, and wonder about this door. If food can come in, maybe they could go out the opening.
The idea is squashed by the philosophers, but some of the young monkeys persist, experimenting with poking at the door from the inside, and sure enough the door opens and they escape.
The philosophers conclude that the outside must be bad as the young monkeys never return, so they get on with the business of accepting the cage as it is and doing nothing more than wondering about life outside.
The monkeys continue to sit in their crowded cage, carefully avoiding looking at the open door.
Our lives, and the life of the church, have doors which open on to exciting futures, if we have the courage to experiment and explore from the inside out.
The shock for the disciples of losing their leader and having their dreams of a mighty dynasty led by their Messiah dashed, was a major crisis point. It was a crisis on which the Church began and grew. Life outside the known and the expected became the ground on which the Church flourished. It was the Church's open door.
On the other hand, the fear of new possibilities has at so many points halted the progress of the church. The resistance to Galileo and the Copernican revolution was one instance. At these points the Church opted instead for the sparse and uninteresting option of a cage of fear.
At every point that progress was embraced, the Church took some major leaps forward. We have seen one this week with the appointment of an openly gay bishop in the American Episcopalian Church and the moves in that church towards official recognition of same sex blessings. At every point that the Church embraces science and new discovery, and leaves behind the cages of Bible literalism and dogmatism, it takes a leap forward.
As we embrace change and intentionally work with it, as individuals and as a church, we shatter the confines of the cage and leap into an open future, loaded with possibility. So as we head into our AGM, we will try to answer the question of how many progressive Christians does it take to change a light bulb? I hope you will join in the challenge of being St Matthew-in-the-City in the coming years and as we become the change we wish to see in the world, we will find out the answer to that question.
Let us explore together our open door, our future full of possibility.