Today's Lectionary Text
For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die;
First of two parts.
I’m not an evolutionary biologist. Not by a long shot. I have a degree in secondary education with teaching field endorsements like English, history, government, politics, and geography along with a master’s degree in educational administration. Other educational endorsements include non-profit management and fundraising. To say the least, science is not my realm of expertise.
However, I recently read a book written by an expert on evolution. While the book is not about evolution per se, the author references an evolutionary concept with which I was heretofore unfamiliar: punctuated equilibrium.
As far as I recall, I was taught that evolution was a gradual and slow process of change over expansive periods of time. Ever so slowly, evolution explains how species adapt to ever-changing surroundings to avoid facing extinction. Though slow, if you look at specimens of species from periods of time spanning hundreds or perhaps thousands of years, these changes can be observed, noted, and used to demonstrate how these slow changes eventually add up to significant adaptations required for survival.
This is, at least, what I recall about evolution, and the book’s author seemed to echo that understanding. In many ways, this theory harkens the wisdom of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 3: ”There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” In the words of a more modern poet, Bob Dylan would perhaps say evolution suggests that “the times they are always a-changin’” and we better be “adaptin’.”
But evidently a scientist named Steven Jay Gould and his team of researchers disrupted the initial understanding of the ever-gradual evolutionary process. According to his analysis of various fossil records, species experienced shorter periods of great change followed by longer periods of slow to no change, a process they coined “punctuated equilibrium.” These time periods of change were sparked by something extreme in the species’ respective environment, requiring sudden changes to adapt to the new environment, “sudden” being relative to the pace of change associated with prior theories, at least.
As I thought about this phenomenon and what it meant for the evolution of various species, I reflected on the evolution of the Church. Does the Church experience ever slow but continual change?
Or is the Church’s course of change closer to the process described by the theory of punctuated equilibrium?
-- Tyler Curtis, chief development officer
Kansas Methodist Foundation
Prayer for Reflection
Heavenly Father, we know there are times for everything - times of great change and times of relative stability. Provide us with the wisdom to recognize the difference and the skills to both survive and thrive during both periods of time. May we as your people and stewards of your church lead with confidence during both times. Amen.
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