Posts Tagged ‘Henry Francis Lyte’

Change and Decay

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Anglicans tend to sing Henry Francis Lyte’s, “Change and decay in all around I see, O thou who changest not, abide with me” with gusto. The hymn gives the warm feeling that change is to be avoided and that God blesses stability. However, this is a time of great change. Theresa May has started revealing her wishes for the greatest modern political change to our country; our withdrawal from the European Union. Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. The distinctive Trump difference being the unique way he has repudiated so much of what went before him. Even the regular World Economic Forum meeting at Davos felt different with China developing a global role and America’s previous administration bowing out. 2017 brings changes, not just with Brexit and Trump, but also potential radical political change across Europe. “Change and decay”?

A classic philosophical view of God implies that God never changes and tends to bless stability. The classical view assumes that God is perfect and therefore incapable of change. To change God would have to become imperfect as God cannot become more perfect. However, Christians worship God as revealed to the Hebrews. A God who is subject to change and who reveals himself to a people in constant flux. Moses encounters God first in a burning bush and, while the bush does not change, the name of God is open to change and interpretation. The name for God, YHWY, can be translated as the stable “I am who I am”. However, as there is no future tense in ancient Hebrew, it can also be translated as the changeable “I will be who I will be”, or “I shall be who I shall be.” God’s nature, revealed by God’s name, can be open to fluctuation and change. Abraham understood this when he bargained with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; God can change God’s mind.

Change is a vital Christian insight into God’s nature. God in Christ is born, grows and develops, is hungry, dies and rises; a life full of change. God the Father is changed from a transcendent authority to a grieving parent. “Change and decay”? “Change and evolution” may be a better understanding.

What of the political changes being ushered in with 2017? Changes to the world order are not necessarily wrong. Some changes are clearly wrong and some wrong things have been said. Any Christian, who celebrates the dignity of human kind believing that God took human form, should work against racism and stereotyping of religions. They should also look to dismantle barriers rather than erect them. However, recent elections have revealed barriers internal to our society and communities, with many people feeling excluded or marginalised. Hopefully we can discern and support what is good in the changes of 2017. If the meeting at Davos can’t understand the election of Trump, then it needs to perceive ways of making its global vision more locally inclusive.