Friday, January 13, 2012

CHANGE - Why We Hate It!

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~ C. S. Lewis

Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same. As a bumper sticker I saw once read, "Change is a constant. Struggle is an option."

As a pastor, I have often been confronted with complaints from parishioners about changes in parish life usually regarding changes in the liturgy. There seems to be an expectation that when we arrive on Sunday whatever happened last week should be the same this week. Surely we do not expect this in the workplace? After all, what pastor has not heard, "We've never done it that way before."? Why do we not expect change in the Church?

Deep down we all know God is immutable. He does not change. He says so. (Malachi 3:16) So we expect the church to reflect that. Never mind it is made up of people who are not God although I have known many who pretended to be! But it is not God that is the problem. As usual it is us! We need to change. We cannot remain the same. We have to change. And God will change us whether we like it or not!

There have been a lot of changes in my life. I am recently divorced. I am in a new denomination. I do not know where tomorrows income will come from. I have moved back to Atlanta. I spent the last couple of days looking for the first house I lived in after returning to Atlanta. I couldn't find it even asking for help from the town's welcome center. I do not remember the address. I only lived there a year and this was 25 years ago. My suspicions is that that area of town has become a shopping center or an apartment. But to realize I cannot go back to where my professional life began evoked much sadness. And another day I visited a shopping mall that I enjoyed frequenting during my days of being young and single. It too had changed. All of this is to say I am not the same person I was years ago. But I desire that there be constants in my life. The truth is there is only one constant. And that constant is God. But we have to change and God will insure that we do.

The gospel accounts of Jesus begin with John the Baptist's screaming for us to repent. The very nature of the word, 'repent' means to change, specifically, to have a change of heart. We have to change in order to enter the Kingdom of God. We do not come into the world ready to enter into God's presence. We are too sinful for that. Pride says we are not, we are just fine for God. But the Truth says we need God's help to become the people He needs us to be. So like clay in the potter's hand, we are molded into His desire for His creation. We will change.

John Stott reminds us in his study of the Beatitudes that when Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt. 5:4), Jesus is referring to us mourning our sins. As I look back on my life, I am not the same person I used to be. And this is Good News as the old me could never enter into God's holiness. I can see how poor I was spiritually when I gaze upon my early adulthood. The Bible is full of stories of faithful people being moved from one place to another. Did Abraham ever miss the Oaks of Mamre? Did Moses miss the pastures of Midian? When he was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling of his prison cell, did Paul ever experience nostalgia before running into Jesus on his way to Damascus? The answer to that question can be found in Philippians 3:7-9.

To mourn our past life means we have recognized that we have died to our old self. The Good News is we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. This is a comfort as the days ahead are indeed by God's design and I know it. It also means change is not over. I am still clay in the potter's hand. Praise be to God!

Change is inevitable. It means God loves us!

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
  a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

  What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.

  I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is,already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

  Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to seewhat will be after him? (Ecclesiastes 3)