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Matt Steinhauer: Changing at the speed of love

Matt Steinhauer • Updated Oct 20, 2017 at 2:00 PM

In her book, “The Great Emergence,” author Phyllis Tickle describes what seems to be a 500-year cycle of radical change in the world of religion, politics and the economy.  

She suggests if you go back 500 years from now, it takes you to the time of the Reformation. If you go back another 500 years, it is the time of the Great Schism of the Christian church between the East and the West. If you go back 500 years before that, we encounter the time of the declaration of Christianity as the favored religion by Constantine. And 500 years before that, of course, is the time of Christ. 

I have read her book and heard her lecture on the subject. Tickle does not draw a conclusion that we are with certitude in one of those 500 years phases now but invites us to pay attention in case we are. This got me to thinking about the impact in Martin Luther’s day of the availability of the relatively new invention of the printing press. This new technology made it possible for Luther’s ideas to be widely circulated in a short period of time.

As amazing as the immediacy of communication may have been in the early 16th century, it pales in comparison to the speed of communication and the impact of technology today. Any of us with an internet connection could be sitting at our kitchen table communicating in real time with someone on the opposite side of the world. Even with the printing press, those pamphlets and books would have to have been distributed by horseback or by foot or perhaps by sailing vessel. Today, information that affects change happens at the speed of light. 

However, that does not mean change happens at the speed of light.

Even with the exponential increase in the speed with which we can spread information, it does not change the reality of the relational aspect of our Christian faith. One cannot do relationship in a hurry. I think about that simple and eloquent passage from Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In every case, our response to God’s demands is about relationship. 

“Doing justice” is about engaging with other peoples’ lives and getting to know them and being sure that everyone created in God’s image – and that would be everyone – is treated with equity. 

“Loving kindness” is not being kind out of a sense of moral duty, but out of a sense of being kind to others the same way God is kind to us in God’s pouring out an unearned love into deeper relationship between us and God. The last part is even easier. 

“Walking” is not usually considered a fast-paced pursuit. “Walking humbly with God” is not done at the speed of light. It is done at the speed of love; the speed at which we are slowed down enough to recognize and receive the outpouring of love from a gracious God, and slow enough to come alongside our sister or brother in need and share the abundance of God’s love with them.

Matt Steinhauer is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Lebanon. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher each month writing a column.

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