The coronation this weekend will have made many of us very aware of just how much the world has changed since the last one. Not least the location, size, and resolution of the screens we have been able to watch it on! My mum told me tales of travelling from the east midlands to Birmingham to watch the 1953 service on a tiny screen in the home of a family member. The 2023 coronation will have been beamed into every house that wanted it and onto giant public screens as well as into many pubs and other places.
And of course, there are other changes too – the acknowledgment and involvement of faith beyond the Church of England was one that really struck me. Although it did not go as far as some would have wanted, it was a joy to see the faces and hear the voices of those representing other faiths in our country, as well as those from churches other than the Church of England.
I also think it was good that those who could not rejoice at another coronation have had their dissent notice, and I know there are questions about how this dissent has been handled, and I’m not going to pretend that there are not questions to be addressed there, but I would say that 70 years ago we would not even of been aware that there were such people among us.
So, although in many ways the ceremony still looked the same, and it was obvious that some of the words and actions were from a different age, there were many differences, and change was at work in all that has happened.
This is because change is a reality. It is not all bad and at times it is not comfortable. But the truth is, it cannot be avoided and in terms of faith it is part and parcel of what it is about.
This week I have been focussing on a bible story that is about one way change is responded to in the sorrowful story of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr. Stephen died at the hands of those who did not want to hear about change. This is a story from after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and Stephen has been telling the religious authorities of his day about the way God has been at work in Jesus, and the authorities do not want to hear and so we are told that they covered their ears. Then they did much worse and stoned Stephen to death. Having done that, they then turn on the other followers of the way of Jesus and start to persecute them. The result is that those believers have to run away and become refugees.
The reality of change is that in order for it to happen, the old things have to fall apart. For the faces and voices of people from beyond the Christian faith to be seen and heard in the coronation service something old had to fall apart: the belief that such faiths are not significant or are somehow not British. Such a “falling apart” is scary. This is why when change is happening, we can turn against it and at times do anything to keep it from falling apart.
I think this is what happened in the story of Stephen and the persecution of those followers of the way of Jesus, and we need to be aware that it can happen in our lives too. We will cling on aggressively to what we fear we are losing and often fail completely to see what is good in the change. In our worst moments we will lash out at everything that is a part of the change, including our fellow human beings, and in that lashing out we can become people we would not have realised we could be.
But change happens – however much we resist it and however hard we cling onto what has been. In faith terms I would say that change is a part of the way God work. And more than that: God is with us in the changes we face.
Later in the bible, beyond the story of Stephen and the refugees fleeing persecution, we read stories and words about how God strengthens the people who have had to flee their homes. In one such place it talks of them being “living sones” built into something new, by the power of God. Change happens, but God is at work in the change if we would stop for a moment and notice.
May you know God with you in the changes that face you in your life and in the life our world.
If you’d like to talk about anything here or anything at all, please send a private message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Rev. Anne Sardeson