In 1842, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote one of the still vibrating Victorian lines about change, optimistic in its assessment:
Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day . . . (Locksley Hall)
Another Victorian of different stripe, Karl Marx, wrote of change in a commentary on a society that he believed would collapse on itself:
All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. (Communist Manifesto)
Neither man's predictions of the future were realized, though the jury may still be out on Tennyson's. Marx's workers paradise, not. Tennyson's technologically shaped progress in a moment of European Christian dominance, mixed bag.
The next 150+ years held much good for the day to day lives of many, and yet were also marked by war after war after war, economic upheavals and enormous displacements of people, a transformation from rural to urban population centers, massive population increases straining resources and environment . . . (you can complete the list). Through this, beauty also snuck through, mercy abounded, love transmitted, and here and there justice has popped out.
So much is being written now about whether we're going through yet another epochal shift—with surprising elections, massive cultural shifts, and more. Right now, the focus is on America with what feels like unprecedented goings on in Washington and all over. The focus will be on Europe again soon with their own elections coming up. And we keep looking at the Middle East, with 'who knows what' coming there.
With all of this, I wonder if we err when we think of the fluid movement of ideas and cultures and reality as somehow an exception between more stable periods. I wonder if there's any real "back" to go back to "again," or if there's any stable future we'll recognize when we "progress" there. I wonder if that's just a confusing way to look at things during this time—as human as it may be to look at things that way. I wonder if change is the rule, and that we spend far more time in between than in, and that we need to rethink how we imagine ourselves, our work, our relationships, our church, our faith, our being as, by nature, in flux.
All things change. There may be no "and yet," or "still" or "nevertheless" with that. Instead, a simple note that as things change we hold tight to grace, and to faith, and to love for the God who made all things and watch (as God watches) the universe explode into a kind of being that's still becoming. And we work hard for goodness, despite the cost.
Christ died once and for all, for all, we say . . . and we should. And Christ dies in every instant and in every life and in every instant of imagination, for the sake of what's next--and is raised. We should say that too.