You may have heard the story of how railroad tracks came to be their present width. According to one tradition, the United States standard railroad gauge derives from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman chariot which was 4 feet, 8.5 inches. This happened because the U.S. railways were built by English expatriates. The English built them like that because the original width (4 feet, 8.5 inches) went back to Roman times, when the ruts in the "English" roads were made by the chariots used by the Romans. So rather than deciding to do something new, the traditional width was just passed down from age to age. The problem is that according to snopes.com, this is probably not true! The fact that this is probably not the way it happened only underscores the idea that along the way, people figure out from time to time how to do some things better. In other words, we don't always have to do it "the way we have always done it before."
A few weeks ago I attended a conference sponsored by the Macedonian Ministries which chose as its theme, "We've Never Done It That Way Before." The week was devoted to a number of excellent presentations on how churches are dealing with the changing world by trying some new things. However, many of the presenters noted how anxious we tend to get when we are asked to consider change and try something new. The tension and anxiety are real.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God says, "I am about to do a new thing . . ." (43:19, NRSV) God is in the business doing "new things." In life, there is often this tension between honoring the past and being open to the "new things" God may be doing in our midst. But remember that God is not surprised by the changes. And God promises to be with us -- leading us through the changes we face in life. Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you" -- and that is good enough!
Prayer for Today
Consistent and loving God, when we face this ever-changing world, help us to remember your faithful, un-changing love for us. Give us the courage to recognize and lean into the "new things" you are doing, as well as the strength to hold on to those pillars that anchor our faith. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.