Maple Syrup and Change

Star told me this story: “Star and Jeff visited their favorite sugar bush on Monday to pick up a gallon of fresh-made maple syrup.  One team of horses drawing a tank wagon was just leaving to go back into the woods for another load of sap as we arrived.  The two wood-fired evaporators were filling the sugar house with a solid cloud of steam that smelled for all the world like a delicious pancake breakfast.  We soon found the syrup master at his station next to the final trough of the new evaporator.  He opened the conversation by declaring that he had just discovered something new about the evaporator they had owned now for a year and a half.  A persisting problem was to get the syrup to thicken properly in the last stage.  For some reason, the fire did not seem to be as hot at that edge and he had puzzled endlessly over the cause.  This day he had figured it out.  The fires were fed through doors at the end of the devices under the maze of troughs.  Open the doors, toss in the four-foot split logs, several at a time and close the doors.  This has always worked perfectly.  Except... the new evaporator doors begin and end a foot in from the edge of the firebox unlike the old model where the hinges are at the edges of the walls.  Throwing the logs straight in the new firebox keeps the hottest fire only in the middle.  Everyone had just continued the habit of feeding the fire seen when the doors were open and up to the present had never realized that the wood must be thrown to the sides in the new model in order to produce even heat in the throughs above.”  

    Sometimes having new equipment requires us to change our ways of doing things. Isn’t it interesting how these new things - machines, computers, worship communities -  challenge our old habits?  New things make us stop and think: why are we doing this, is it just because we’ve always done it that way? It was so convenient when we didn’t have to figure things out, and everything ran smoothly. 

    Thinking about the past as running smoothly is usually only an illusion. Think of the church, it has always been changing. Ideas that we think have been around forever are sometimes new and from within our lifetime. For example, there were many ways to follow Jesus’ teaching before Constantine, but after 312 C.E. only one way of being a church was accepted by the state. 
    When we think of God now, our ideas are often very different from when we were young. The great superhero out there who punished the wicked and rewarded the good just doesn’t make sense anymore.  It just doesn’t work to believe in a few tenets and think that that is enough. 

    Belief, mental assent, is not the answer for me anymore. I have to agree with Paul R. Smith, who wrote the book Integral Christianity, when he says:  we see “God as powerful - but it is a different kind of God with a different kind of power, [now we see a God with] the power of creative intelligence, evolutionary impulse, all-encompassing love, healing energy, and transforming compassion.”  

We experience God anywhere and everywhere; in the smile of parents lovingly looking at their child, in the wind blowing the tree branches in a great dance, in the hand someone gives to help us up.  It is good that things change and we can pay more attention to the new in our lives.