Canon Lynne Thackwray's Sermons
THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY
FEBRUARY 23, 2020
If we read the teaching of Jesus in this section of the Sermon on the Mount as just another set of commandments, of impossible things we have to do to earn the title disciple or get our ticket for heaven, then we will have misunderstood them and conveniently dismissed them as aspirations for only saints and super-Christians, not ordinary folk like ourselves.
But think about it! Those who first received these instructions about loving and praying for enemies were only beginners at following Jesus. No one had done it before; they were all pioneers, what we would call rookies, or apprentices, which is what the word disciple means. No different than we are. As one observer put it, “Jesus did not call the qualified; he qualified the called.” They were not extra- ordinary men; they were everyday men responding to an extraordinary man.
What they had was not expertise but availability and ignorance, which is all God asks: show up and start learning from my Son! Whatever we think of Jesus’ teaching, remember that it’s for all his followers, not just the advanced, whoever they are? We can’t get off the hook by claiming it doesn’t apply to us. If we are not learning to love our enemies and being drawn to the idea as an outrageous possibility, difficult as it is, we are missing something Jesus thought very important. There is nothing that reveals our spiritualty so much as what do we do with our enemies!
Thus far the disciples had responded to the challenge of Jesus’ call. They had seen him heal multitudes and cast out spirits. Where Jesus was, stuff happened, and it happened every day; They were now in the force field of who Jesus was, and in this block of teaching we call the Sermon on the Mount they learned just how serious he was about making them into a new species of human being, people who live in this world but with a new relationship with the visible Jesus and the invisible God
But living in two worlds at the same time is confusing, and we can understand how slow the first followers were to learn. What was natural for Jesus was unnatural for them. We too live in a confusing world – one that has had the holocaust, genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, pluralism and hatred in the country south of us, a struggle for reconciliation, for environmental issues and economic concerns in our own country. It is a world of “them and us”, of who agrees with us and who does not see our point of view.
So it was in the day of Jesus. In Leviticus 19:18 it says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and since the word love was clearer than the word neighbor, the second word was easier to shrink down to manageable size. It was an understandable move to draw boundaries about who was in and who was out. To love your neighbor? What does that mean, and who is my neighbor? Surely not the pagans who worship many false gods? Surely not our distant cousins the Samaritans who worship on the wrong mountain and accept only part of the Bible? Surely not fellow Jews who are lax about the law and my school’s interpretation of the law? Surely not…. surely not… surely not… and you can fill in your own prejudices.
Have you noticed that love has its own, carefully monitored comfort zone? If someone is just inside or outside the boundaries, we feel it. We like this kind of people but not that kind, this color and race of people but not that race and color of people, people from this part of the country but not people from that part of the country, people who share our politics and bad habits and not those who are politically different and have other bad habits, people of our denomination and particular circle and not those in another clique or church? Isn’t that who we are? and we feel perfectly justified in our prejudices.
Anne Lamont, the quirky Christian novelist, stings us with her insight, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Soon the circle is small enough to be manageable, and you feel quite good about your ability to maintain at least civility, if not love, in the smaller circle.
Now, Martin Luther King, Jr. would take this principle from the Sermon on the Mount and use it to revolutionize America. King used to say, “No man can pull me down so low as to make me hate him.” The real goal, said King, was not to defeat the white man, but to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and to challenge his false sense of superiority. “The goal is reconciliation, redemption, the creation of the beloved community.”
Jesus’ words “love your enemy” are totally out of step with the world. The real world believes in retaliation. 75 percent of Christians believe in capital punishment because they think we can stop the killing by killing the killers. That’s retaliation.
There is a story of a truck driver who stopped one day at a restaurant for dinner and ordered a steak. Before he could eat it, in walked a motorcycle gang, with dirty leather jackets and long, unkempt hair. They took the man’s steak, cut it into six pieces, and ate it. The driver said nothing. He simply paid the bill and walked out. One of the gang members said, “That man couldn’t talk. He didn’t say a word.” Another one said, “He couldn’t fight, either; he didn’t lift a hand.” A waiter added, “I would say that he couldn’t drive either. On his way out of the parking lot, he ran over six motorcycles.” Something in us loves that story, because we like retaliation.
It is interesting to inspect the images Jesus used. If some of us had our way, according to Jesus, we would walk in a circle of light and our enemies would walk around in a circle of darkness; our garden would get rain, theirs none at all. That way you could know who was in and who was out with God, just look for spotlights and soggy gardens. But that’s not how it works; God is generous with Her blessings: sun and rain for the good and evil, the just and the unjust.
Not that distinctions are not to be made; moral categories do abide: the good are not the evil, and the unjust are not the just, only that God is the only one who can sort them out, not us. And when we learn God’s ways, then we behave in ways for which Jesus Christ is the only answer. And not always, but sometimes our enemies change
To love your enemies through deeds of kindness and prayer is a high, kingdom privilege which you can only do with Christ’s help. The words of the Thomas Merton are most helpful:
“Do not be too quick,” he wrote, “to assume that your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage. Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels you are afraid of him. And perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him he would no longer be your enemy.
Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and kindness and mercy and understanding of the weakness of men.
Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God. For it is perhaps your own coldness and materialism and selfishness that have killed his faith.”12
In other words, who I label as enemy may say more about me than about them.
Praying for our enemies is incredibly disarming. It is not enough to avoid them and not do them harm. We must actively love by doing good whenever possible and holding them up in prayer before God. Amazing thing – it is nearly impossible to do someone good, pray for them, and hate them at the same time. Such radical actions are not only for their benefit, but for ours also. And when we do this we see in them new things, new possibilities. We dare to see them as God does.
Helmut Thielecke, a German pastor and teacher, saw this and wrote:
“Loving our enemies, then, does not mean we are supposed to love the dirt in which the pearl is buried; rather it means that we love the pearl which lies in the dust. Since the people who encountered Jesus found that he uncovered this level, and they therefore did not stand before him as criminals but as the lost and sought and mourned children of God, they were changed when they went on their way. God does not love us because we are by nature lovable. But we become lovable because he loves us.”
The bottom line being that if we are not loving our enemies and praying for them, the world has a right to ask who we’re following? The quickest way to change your world and this world permanently and get in line for the next Nobel Peace Prize is to ask for grace to obey this command, Love your enemies and pray for them. Here’s a great example for you baseball fans:
“Former Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan. That’s right: one fan.
The guy had a box seat close to the field, and when the Red Sox were in town he would torment Boggs by shouting obscenities and insults. It’s hard to imagine one fan getting under a player’s skin, but this guy had the recipe.
One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, ‘Boggs, you stink’ and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, who was sitting in the stands…and said, ‘Hey fella, are you the guy who’s always yelling at me?
The man said, ‘Yeah, it’s me. What are you going to do about it?’ Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, and went back to the field to his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again; in fact, he became one of Wade’s biggest fans at Yankee Stadium.”
Love your enemies. It might change them, and we know it will change you.
THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY
This morning’s gospel from Matthew is a continuation of the beatitudes and his desire for us to be the salt of the earth and to let our light shine before others that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven. He then adds that he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them.
So this gives us the background through which we then hear him tell us not to murder, not to stay angry with our brother (or sister) but to reconcile with him (her), not to commit adultery or even think about it, not to divorce except on the grounds of the wife’s unchastity, not to swear, to cut off our right hand if it causes us to sin. Pretty tall order for any of us mere humans – considering the divorce rate in Canada today is about 40%, that many people often take the Lord’s name in vain while swearing without even realizing it and how often do folks have sexual fantasies about the opposite sex! Jesus has set the bar high – far higher than any mere mortal could reach. But that doesn’t mean that we should not try.
And that’s where our reading from Deuteronomy comes in. With God’s help, Moses has led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery; through the wilderness; and now to the brink of the Promised Land.
He is old and weak and tired now and can’t go on with them. So, he gives them their final instructions. He tells them that when they get into the Promised Land
– they will be tempted to chase after false gods,
– they will be tempted to forget about God and His love and His covenant and His commandments,
– and so he implores them to not choose a destructive way of living,
– but, to remember God’s love and choose life with God!
If Moses were here today, that is precisely what he would say to us… remember God’s love, remember God’s promise to always be with us come what may,
Don’t be deluded by the latest fads or the newest temptations… Just choose life with God… or as Darrell Royal once said, “Dance with the One who Brung You.”
I think that this is what Jesus was trying to tell his disciples in order to prepare them for the time when they had to strike out on their own to spread God’s word. You will be faced with and tempted by many false and ungodly things. You have to make a choice. In order to remain steadfast and faithful you will have to choose to be committed to obeying God’s commandments, to walking in my footsteps as best you can. You are not perfect, you will make mistakes but aim high, choose God’s way.
One of my favourite books is Kitchen Table Wisdom written by Dr. Rachel Remen a highly respected pediatrician who had been taught by her grandfather, a wise and devoted elderly Rabbi to search for the meaning of life by…
– Studying the Scriptures,
– Asking questions,
– And, listening to powerful stories.
Dr. Remen has effectively cared for her patients for over 35 years and is also a highly-sought-after counselor for people who are grappling with life-threatening illnesses. She is good at this because she has the unique ability to enable people to find healing by telling aloud their own life-stories…
Not the story of what they have accomplished in life, but the story of –
– Who they really are,
– What they really value,
– Where they came from,
– And what for them is the meaning of their life.
In her book Dr. Remen laments the hard fact that because of our hurried and harried life-style these days, we don’t sit around the kitchen table and tell our stories much anymore… and the great wisdom of living doesn’t get passed on… and this is so sad because as she puts it:
“Hidden in all stories is the one story. The more we listen, the clearer that story becomes. Our true identity, who we are, why we are here, what sustains us, is in the story. The stories at every kitchen table are about the same things, stories of owning, having and losing, stories of sex, of power, of pain, of wounding, of courage, hope and healing, of loneliness and the end of loneliness.
Stories about God… (stories that) awaken us and weave us together as a family once again.” (Kitchen Table Wisdom, Introduction pp.xxvi and xxvii, Riverhead Brooks, N.Y., 200 Madison Avenue, N.Y. 10016, 1996)
In this wonderful book, Dr. Remen tells the story of a man named Max, a reckless man who often did dangerous, reckless life-threatening things. He lived on the edge, drinking, carousing, fighting, driving his car wildly… constantly flirting with danger.
At 63 years of age, Max had been married four times, had made two fortunes and lost them, and now bouncing back had become a highly successful rancher and cattle breeder.
Max was a pre-mature baby and in the first few years of his life he was small and sickly and his mother had to give him a great deal of her time and energy. His father didn’t like that at all and one day in a fit of anger, Max’s dad shouted: “If that little runt was one of the animals, I’d have put it out to starve.”
Even when Max grew up and became a big and strong, rough and tough teenager, Max felt that his dad resented him. He said there were times when his dad would go for weeks and never speak to him or acknowledge his presence in any way, so when he reached the age of 15, Max left home to fend for himself in the world.
All of his life, Max had had these “self-destructive tendencies” which often caused accidents and injuries. Ultimately, he ended up in Rachel Remen’s counseling office.
“I don’t know why I do these reckless, crazy things,” he said. “I have ‘pushed death’ for as long as I can remember.”
Dr. Remen said to him: “Max, maybe you do these things because you are still trying to decide.”
“Decide what?” Max asked. And Dr. Remen said: “Maybe you are still trying to decide if you want to live to please your mother… or die to please your dad!”
Max was stunned by her comment at first. He just stared at the floor for a long time… and then quietly, very quietly… almost a whisper, he said: “I want to live.” Another long pause… and at first Rachel Remen worried that she had gone too far, but then… slowly, agonizingly, Max looked up and said: “I want to live!” Rachel Remen smiled at Max and said: “I want you to live, too.”
Max smiled back at her then he said: “Well, doc, with your vote we’ve outnumbered the old buzzard once and for all!”
That simple expression of love from his doctor changed Max’s life. Gradually he became able to forgive his father and to value and care for himself. His reckless living stopped because he realized that he was valued and treasured… and that someone else (in this case, his doctor) genuinely felt that his life was important… and that was an epiphany for him… and that knowledge enabled Max to choose life.
Max’s story is the kind of story that needs to be told –
– Around kitchen tables,
– In our Sunday School classes,
– And from our pulpits,
Because it dramatically reminds us of the crucial decision, the vital choice every one of us faces every single day of our lives, namely this:
– Do we choose light or darkness, life or death?
– Do we choose to just cope with life or to really embrace life?
– Do we choose to throw in the towel and quit on life? Or, do we choose to celebrate life?
As Christian we are taught that God, the Great Physician, loves us, cares for us, values us and treasures us.
So, because of God’s love and grace and presence with us, we can choose to live – joyously, gratefully, abundantly, victoriously, meaningfully.This is precisely what Moses was saying to the Israelites (and indeed to us) in the powerful passage recorded in Deuteronomy 30.
When was the last time you connected what you said and what you did with who God is for you? Our actions and our words reveal our theology.
In today’s section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists that life is threatened when anger and judgment and insult reign. Life is threatened when you do not follow through with oaths you make. Life is threatened when you don’t aim high.
In other words, Jesus is saying that interpreting the law is far more complex than we think. And if our interpretations lead to death — the silence of voices, the disrespect or demeaning of others, holding grudges out of anger, immoral thoughts and behaviours — then we have to think long and hard about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
If “choose life” was the test case for what we did and said, the canonical marker, if you will, for discipleship, we may pause before we lash out in anger and fear. We might take a moment before we label someone pro-life, pro-choice, pro-abortionist, (or anti all of those things). We might stop and think, is what I am about to say and what I am about to do something that would be recognizable as life-giving, life- upholding, life-empowering?
There is the story of the flight attendant who asked a man “Would you like dinner?” The man answered “What are my choices?” The flight attendant said: “Yes or No!” That’s what Moses was saying, that’s what Jesus is saying . You have a choice to make. Do you say: “Yes or No to God!” God loves you, choose life with God.”
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
From the beginning there was always something about Jesus which drew people to Him. There was something in His manner, something about His look, something in His eyes which must have reached out and captivated people who saw Him.
One day, not long after returning to Galilee from the Jordan Valley, Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There He saw two fishermen, Simon and Andrew. It is thought by some scholars that those two brothers had been followers of John the Baptist. If so, perhaps they were at the river when Jesus was baptized. At any rate, it is possible that Jesus knew who they were, and that they may have known something of Him. We will never know this for sure. But Matthew does tell us that when Jesus saw the two fishermen He stopped for a moment and said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then Matthew tells us that without hesitation they put down their nets and followed Jesus and became His disciples.
The three of them walked further along the northern shore of the lake until they came to two other fishermen, James and John. Jesus called them also to become disciples. They made the same response as the first two, following Jesus immediately.
The lives of those fishermen were never the same. It was true of all those men and women, young people and children who came under the influence of the life of Jesus. The call of Jesus transformed them, and nothing was ever the same. This has been true throughout the ages. Everywhere the name of Jesus has been spoken life is different, better, higher, nobler. We have found it to be true for us as well. Our lives are better because of the transforming call of Christ.
So today, with this in mind you might be asking: “Why would Jesus choose fishermen to be His disciples?” William Barclay, the renowned Bible scholar, wrote a book some years ago called The Mind of Jesus. He said that Jesus chose fishermen because of “the kind of men” they were. Barclay says that these fisherman had the qualities that Jesus needed in His disciples – closeness to God, courage, patience, and wise judgment.
So, what we have here is a carpenter turned preacher who chooses fishermen to help Him build a church and a kingdom, and fill them up with people drawn together under the great net of God’s love. Jesus knew they could help Him in his mission, for He saw their true talent. He looked beyond what was obvious to all: rough men weathered by the sun and the wind who were simply catchers of fish, and he saw what lay deeper under the surface. He saw those inner qualities, their real nature, and knew what courageous, daring men they could become.
Jesus would use their talent for fishing and the qualities which made them good at it to transform them: “I will make you fishers of men.” He says – or as later translations read: fishers of people!
Jesus spoke transforming words to many people. Later on, near the end of His life, He would finally say to Simon, “You are Peter (meaning the rock) and upon this rock I will build my church.” To another He said, “Your sins are forgiven, take up your bed and go home.” And, to another He said, “Go and sin no more.” In so many places and to so many people Jesus spoke transforming words, “You will … You are … you can..
He knew how to motivate them to enable them to do what they were capable of doing. Matthew writes that “they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” These fishermen, who would now be fishing for people, were motivated by Jesus to go with Him, be trained by Him, and allow Him to set them to their task. Even as they were learning they were beginning to serve. Jesus would send them out to preach the Good News, and He would begin to depend upon them. Already they were on their way to being not only disciples but also apostles, servants, witnesses, and representatives.
So for us today, just what does it mean to be called, to be transformed, to have a life changing experience? We talk about being called to ministry – what does that mean. Jesus called twelve who were deemed to be his disciples, his apostles – “The Twelve” but there were many more who responded to his call at that time, many more whose lives were transformed and changed, who became followers of Christ. What about them?
Not everyone had the qualities needed for the life of one of THE disciples but that did not make them lesser Christians. Many people gave their life to Christ –do you remember them from the stories of the New Testament – Stephen, Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, Mary, Titus, Dorcas, Lydia, Martha? And there were many others who toiled tirelessly to spread the gospel and minister to folks each in their own ways according to their individual God given gifts and talents.
Over the years, even to today many have been called to ministry and committed their lives to following Christ -. Francis of Assisi, Jean Vanier, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa, Julian of Norwich to name a few of the abetter known. These are not ordained men and women but ordinary people who have risen to extraordinary lengths to walk in Christ’s footsteps. And there are numerous others whose names we will never know who have done extraordinary things in Jesus’ name. So, there are some who are called to ordained ministry but there are many others who are called to ministry-what about them? They’ve heard the call and responded. And if the truth be told, all followers of Jesus, all Christians, are called to do ministry, to be ministers. So how does one know when one is called? Well, I think the answer is “you just know!” That divine spirit, the Christ within each one of us, speaks to us and if we take the time to listen we will hear that inner yearning, that call to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. And God will use the gifts and talents that we have and equip us to be his hands and feet here on earth.
Jesus said, “Follow me,” and the exciting thing is that Simon and Andrew, James and John did just that. All kinds of people responded. From these early disciples, to us, women and men, young and aging, people of all colors and classes have heard that invitation in the places where they live their lives. In fact, Jesus does not stop saying, “Follow me.” It is one thing to ask some fishermen to come along for a stroll along the Sea of Galilee, but it is another proposition altogether to utter those words “Follow me” so freely that anybody might answer. We know God loves everybody, but just because God loves everybody does not mean everybody is going to follow around after Jesus. Nor does the fact that God loves everybody mean that we necessarily want to see all of them in the crowd with Jesus, and with us. The temptation is to think that Jesus used exceptional insight when he looked our way and said, “Follow me.” It is even a greater temptation to wonder what in the world he was thinking about when he called some of these others, but that is not Jesus’ problem. That is our problem, and no explanation on Jesus’ part is needed! fo
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Those are the words He speaks to us today: And that means learning His way. Jesus trained the twelve for three years before they were ready. A disciple was a student. He was getting them ready.
Jesus calls many others and in inviting the poor and the lazy and the trash of the earth to the great banquet, he has deemed them essential as well, and some of us may be offended by that. Life in the church would be a lot more comfortable if it were just us, but Jesus can’t stop saying, “Follow me.” Not only can he not stop, he makes this invitation in such an undiscriminating way that most anybody might show up. At a time when churches are knee-deep in marketing techniques that are geared to attract people like those who are already here, Jesus is down by the soup kitchen inviting the homeless family to church. At a time when literature abounds on who we can and cannot expect to come to our church, Jesus insists on knocking on every door in every neighborhood in every section of town. Jesus calls people that we have forgotten about and welcomes people we too often have treated as non-essential, and we are affected every time.
That is our calling today. That is the task at hand for us — to be a church and to be individuals who are to be disciples, called to be people who serve, witness, believe, hope, give, and represent Christ. William Temple, a Christian leader earlier in this century, said, “Christ wrote no book; He left in the world as His witnesses, a body of men and women on whom His spirit came.” Anyone and everyone qualifies, it depends on who can be still in the chaos of this life and listen.
The Baptism of the Lord
January 12, 2020
I recently read about a United Methodist preacher whose whole confirmation class decided they wanted to be baptized by immersion. It was one of those grand events with almost the whole congregation there at the local river. Parents were in tears, grandparents stood by proud and crying too as these young people made that momentous decision in their lives. Other youth and children stood in awe and wonder, filled with curiosity because most of them had never witnessed a baptism by immersion.
All of that wonderful emotion was short circuited during the very first baptism however when the preacher was heard to say: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and … holy moly, I forgot to take off my watch!”
Jesus came from Galilee to the river Jordan to hear the fiery evangelist John the Baptist preach in the wilderness. When the invitation was given for baptism, Jesus stepped forward. . Remember, John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance and he knew that his cousin Jesus didn’t need to repent. Now John doesn’t know at this point that Jesus is the Messiah, but he knows he is special. He feels so strongly about this that he tries to keep Jesus out of the water. He says to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
That’s beautiful. What would your cousins say about you–or perhaps your brothers and sisters–the people you golf with or work with–the people who know you best? How would they react if they knew you were coming for a baptism of repentance? Would they say, “Boy, it’s about time!” Or would they be thinking, “I wonder what she’s hiding?” Would any of them try to keep you out of the water because they thought you that you didn’t really need to repent?
Jesus obviously didn’t need to make a new beginning in the same way that we would. But the rite of baptism did mark a new phase in Jesus’ life; he used it to prepare for his ministry. No longer would he be building furniture in the carpenter’s shop; now he would be building a future for all humanity. No matter who we are or where we are on our faith journey, this is a message of hope. New beginnings are possible, often, necessary. And I’m sure you have heard this before – Today really is the first day of the rest of our lives. We can chart out a new direction, set new goals and renew our relationship with God to give us the support we need to be who God has called us to be.
This is the first Sunday in the church season of Epiphany. This should be a time of new understandings, new beginnings, new ideas about what it means to follow Christ. So just what does it take to make a new beginning? First of all, we must be willing to change. That may sound obvious, but this is the biggest obstacle for many people. We get into a routine, you might even call it a rut. And we really do not want to change.
I know that you have probably heard all the light bulb jokes but this one really appeals to me. So…. How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
* If you are Charismatic: Only one. Your hands are already in the air.
* Baptist: At least 15. One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.
* Catholic: None. Candles, only candles.
* Methodist: Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved–you can be a light bulb, tulip bulb or a turnip bulb–you are loved.
* TV evangelist: Just one. But for the message of light to continue, pick up that phone and pledge your support today.
* Presbyterian: Eight. One to call the electrician, and seven to say how much better they liked the old one.
* Anglican: Change? My grandmother gave that light bulb!!! (1)
Most of us tend to resist change. Physicists speak of inertia–the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Many churches suffer from inertia, as do many of their congregants. Counselors say: Most people change only when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
And I have to admit that I am as bad as any of you here when faced with change. Moving to Guelph on my own 5 years ago was a very difficult change for me. The thought of changing churches was a difficult thing to do. You’ve heard of the comfortable pew – well, it is so easy to get comfortable in a congregation and not want to move away. A friend recognizing the struggle I was having with the changes in my life, gave me a small book called “Who Moved My Cheese?” written by Spencer Johnson who co-authored the “One Minute Manager.” It is a fast read but requires a lot of thinking and reflecting upon. There are a lot of small but profound euphanisms such as “If you do not change, you can become extinct.” Change happens, so anticipate it, monitor it, adapt to it, move with it and enjoy.
We have a tendency to be so afraid of change. So slow to accept new possibilities. So reluctant to embrace new opportunities. That’s true of individuals. That’s true of churches. First of all, we must be willing to change. Marianne Williamson writes, “When you ask God into your life, you think God is going to come into your psychic house. So you look around, and see that you just need a new floor or better furniture, and that everything needs just a little cleaning–and so you go along for the first six months thinking how nice life is now that God is there. Then you look out the window one day and you see that there’s a wrecking ball outside. It turns out that God actually thinks your whole foundation is shot and you’re going to have to start over from scratch.”
Sometimes change is forced on you and other times only you know what needs to be changed in your life. Are you willing to change? We have a challenge to live up to and a resource upon which to draw–our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus made a new beginning when he was baptized by John in the Jordan. There was no cause on his part for repentance. But he was starting his public ministry and wanted to set an example for us.
You know how the story ends. “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”
Deep down within each of us that is what we would like to hear God say about our lives, “This is my son, [this is my daughter] whom I love; with whom I am well pleased.” If so, we need to look at the possibilities of change in our lives beginning today.
We have 4 young people being baptized this morning – Grayson, Hailey, Maya, and Thomas. Perhaps they are too young to understand about a change that could/should come in their lives when they are baptized but their parents and godparents are there to help form their lives as Christians while they are on their journey to adulthood. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly but to be enjoyed and treasured as you walk that journey of change and growth in faith together. Blessings on all who undertake to walk this faith journey to walk with another soul.