Sunday, September 01, 2013


New Testament Lesson                                                     Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
13 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.[a] Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

           A few days ago I visited Kennedy Space Center and took a tour in the massive VAB – the Vehicle Assembly Building.  We were told by our tour bus guide not to step beyond the yellow lines in the building, or else the “men with guns” would come and guide us back to the bus.
I happened to be inside that building in 1969.  At that time, I wandered away from my group and found an elevator.  I was wondering how high I could go, so I hoped in and pushed a button.  When I got off of the elevator some NASA employee saw this young teenager wondering around and he came up to me and asked, “Can I help you?”
Now in this day and age, someone asking in a secure area, “Can I help you” means, “Prepare to be searched and interrogated.”  But back then “Can I help you” meant, “Can I help you.”
I told the NASA employee that I was just looking around and he said, “In that case, come with me and I’ll show you something interesting.”  
We went into one of the bays of that building and there was the Saturn V that was going to launch Apollo 12.  We went into another area and there was the Command Module for the Apollo 13.
I look back on that day and think about how much things have changed – today I would have been arrested as a possible terrorist.
In years past, I left my front door unlocked.  Today I lock the door and turn on the security alarm. 
In years past, I would drive on the Interstate and see very few cars – that was the advantage of the Interstate:  No traffic.  Today we get on the Interstate and it is often like a parking lot.
Things change.
In the city of Ephesus, almost six hundred years before St. Paul would visit there – in other words about 2,600 years ago, Heraclitus taught that the primary truth about existence is change. 
He said that nothing remains the same. 
Everything is in a process of constant and eternal change. 
This is the person who made the well known statement that you cannot step into the same river twice, for by the second step the river has moved, so that neither the river or you are the same.
             With the world around us in a state of constant flux and our own life also changing how are we to cope?  Change can seem so overwhelming that it threatens to destroy us.  How can God help us in the midst of change?
We are struggling so much with change.  Remember privacy?  As a teenager reading George Orwell’s 1984, I thought living in a society in which Big Brother is watching would be a terrible thing – and now we live in a society that has changed so much that we are accustomed to being completely stripped of privacy.

How can we deal with such changes?

By the way – has anyone noticed my sermon title today? 
Does anyone know what that stands for?
WNDITWB – We’ve Never Done It That Way Before.  The motto of every dying church in America.  Any church that is resistant to change will die.  We need to change.  We need to do things differently. 
Like it or not – everything changes.  Even the church. 

Now, not all changes are bad.  Some are good. 

This week we observed the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington DC.  It was August, 1963, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood before a vast crowd and spoke such stirring words:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
Some changes are not good at all – but let’s admit it, some changes are good.

There is a song that the Beatles used to sing:

I've got to admit it's getting better
A little better all the time
Getting so much better all the time!

When King gave that speech and said he had a dream of a day when the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will someday be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood, restaurants would not allow people to sit at a table and eat if they were of different color skin.  Now the children who are here today cannot imagine what those times must have been like.

Some changes are good.

African Americans and Whites could not use the same restrooms, go to the same schools, and virtually every church in America was all one single race.  In many states, it was illegal for people of different races to marry.

The Beatles were right – it’s getting better every day.

But whether changes are good or bad, there is something about change that we find disruptive.  So much so that even in the church we will respond to the best new ideas for doing something differently with the motto – “We’ve never done it that way before.”

There is an adage that people don’t like change.  Have you ever heard that?  I hear it all the time, especially in church – people don’t like change.

I have never believed that – I think that deep down inside we need change and we even like change.  If we didn’t like change, all we would ever watch would be reruns on television.  Now I will admit that my wife and I do watch Adam 12, Dragnet, and McGyver – and there hasn’t been a new episode of any of those series in years – decades.

But I also look forward to the newest episode of Psych, Rizzoli and Isles, and a dozen other shows.

I believe that it is not so much that we are against change – but rather in the midst of all of life’s changes, we desperately need something familiar.  We don’t like to lose the great things we have grown to love while these new things bubble up all around us.

The problem with change is that people think more about what they lose in the new changes, and not what they gain.  And loss of any sort brings with it a sense of grief.  And with grief comes denial, anger, withdrawal, and resistence.

We can face change successfully by doing two things – first, feeling like we have some sort of control and secondly, being able to keep something familiar in our lives.

Even the youngest children can understand this.  Take a child and move him from one home to another is disturbing, but give the child an opportunity to control whether the new bedroom will be blue or white, and the child feels he or she has some control.  Then on the first night in the new bed, give the child the familiar teddy bear and there is a sense of security that helps navigate the rivers of change.

So what does God give us that we can have some control over?  And what is it that God gives us that is familiar no matter what else changes?

Our New Testament lesson says, “Yes.”  In verse 8 of chapter 13, it says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 

We have control over whether we follow Jesus Christ.

And in the midst of change, the only thing that remains the same is Jesus Christ.

That can be a great comfort to us in our changing times.

A person who has been healthy struggles with the change of having to deal with arthritis that limits what we used to be able to do with no restraint.  Another has to deal with cancer that threatens life. 

Change – you need some control and you need something familiar.  You find that in choosing to lean on Jesus, who is the ever familiar and never changing element of life.

A person who has been in a stable financial situation finds a sudden change in salary or investment portfolio.  Perhaps the loss of a job.  Terrible changes. 

Change – you need some control and you need something familiar.  You find that in choosing to lean on Jesus, who is the ever familiar and never changing element of life.

Two people fall in love.  They are married.  They move in together.  They have a child.  These are wonderful things – but they are changes.  They bring stress.  Married couples have to learn a new way of life.  Babies arrive and – well, EVERYTHING changes.  Wonderful things.  But these also changes.

Change – you need some control and you need something familiar.  You find that in choosing to lean on Jesus, who is the ever familiar and never changing element of life.

So whether change is good or bad, we navigate through life’s every changing stream by finding our stability in choosing Christ.