Parish the Thought: Transformation of the Present by Faith
Reading through the introductory notes for Colossians in the NRSV, this phrase popped off the page: “transformation of the present by faith…” This is what God is doing, and is one of the arguments presented in Colossians to a group of folks who are being tempted to look in a lot of other places for power and authority; places like the “elemental spirits of the universe,” and we thought ‘new age’ was new. “Transformation of the present by faith.” Transformation: Paul writes to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” We get our word for schema and schematic from the Greek word here translated “conform.” It has to do with outward form. The word for “transformed” is the one from which we get our English word “metamorphosis” and it means being changed from the inside out, or from one thing into another as in Franz Kafka’s story when the fellow goes to sleep at night and in the morning finds he has morphed into a cockroach. A slightly more positive transformation is being spoken of here. No external change or image makeover, no ritualistic change in the ‘form’ of worship say, or in the schematics of a committee system to do things more decently and in order. We are undergoing a metamorphosis, having a change of heart, turning from one likeness into another which is the likeness of Christ . It is not just us who are undergoing this transformation, but also the “present.” It is not that we are being transformed and prepared for some heavenly future, no, heaven is right here and transforming the present through us into itself. The Present: this present moment, present tense, present time, present circumstances, and “present” as in gift. “By grace we have been saved through faith…” Paul writes in Ephesians, and this is not our doing, but “is the gift of God.” The transformation begun with the gift of salvation, continues as God’s gift, but by faith we get to be in on it, which leads to… Faith: “Work out your salvation,” Paul writes to the Philippians, “for it is God at work in you…” Trusting God is at work, active, turning things inside out, and upside down in us, and in this present time, and among these present circumstances is how we begin to get in on it. God is graciously at work transforming the present by faith, indeed, by YOUR faith, through YOUR faith, with YOUR faithful responses to God’s transforming presence. Where do you see transformation taking place in your life? In your present time? In your present circumstances? In this present history? By faith where might you get in on God’s work of transforming the present?
And even more on transformation… Steve Garnass-Holmes writes: Jesus’ call isn’t usually a career path. But it is a vocation, a vocalization, a spoken invitation, a voice asking you to come closer. You don’t have to go off to Africa and become a missionary, though you might. It’s seldom a call to leave the place you are. No, it’s a call to go deeper. Christ calls you deeper into what you are here to do. Deeper into the present moment, deeper into relationships, deeper into the life you are already living. Deeper into the truth that is already before you. Deeper into the Presence that is already within you. It is most often not a call to go elsewhere but a call to be otherwise, to become new, to allow yourself to be transformed.