St. Luke’s, Scranton
So, how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?
Twenty-five: one to change the bulb; twenty-four to say how much they liked the old one.
I first heard this joke many years ago in Austin, Texas, at St. David’s, where I began attending an Episcopal church; at that time, someone explained to me that the joke pertained to the recently adopted “new” hymnal. Most of us have come to accept the hymnal, but the joke is still circulating in various forms on the Web, where the answer varies slightly (“But my grandmother donated that bulb!”), but always implies pretty clearly that we Episcopalians don’t want anyone messing with our traditions and our worship. We don’t like change, and we are pretty vocal about this preference. And yet here we are, a Diocese praying for courage to “seek the forms and styles of life and ministry you have prepared for us,” including abandoning “familiar things and . . . our ‘comfort zone.'”
Bishop Sean, this is pretty radical stuff for Episcopalians. Have you heard the grumbling? (Not, I hasten to add, from St. Luke’s.)
It’s hard not to remember (and feel a twinge of Episcopalian empathy for) the Israelites grumbling in their forty-year pilgrimage. However our epistle today is quite clear on the subject of grumbling: “Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!” (James 5.9). And we know that the grumblers in that original pilgrimage died on the way to their new home. Let’s not follow them.
I began this blog on a light note. I don’t think I can end it there. I’ve seen too many good works hindered or stopped by grumbling about the good old days (and I’ve been one of grumblers myself.) But here’s the other thing about Episcopalians: we include the Psalms as a regular part of in our liturgy, so we can counter our murmuring with this other part of our own tradition: we can join the Psalmist today, as he calls us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103.2). Including a new, eco-friendly, long-lasting light bulb.