Friday, June 23, 2017

CHANGE - Ezra 3:10-13; Hebrews 13:6-8

Old Testament Lesson                                                                    Ezra 3:10-13

 10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; 11 and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”


And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 

12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.

New Testament Lesson           Hebrews 13:2-8                      


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.




          In Ezra, our Old Testament lesson for today, something interesting is going on.  Something exciting.  They are rebuilding the temple.  It was destroyed 66 years earlier, but now they are rebuilding it and they have laid the foundation.  So they have a great worship service.  The priests are in their finest vestments.  The choirs are signing.  The musicians are playing their instruments.  The young are shouting with joy. 


          But – the Bible says “many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house.” 


          It is so easy for people to say, “Back in my day – things were better.  We had a better temple.  We had better music.  We had better worship.  We had better fellowship activities.”


          Everything in life changes.  We need to get used to that, and we should rejoice at many of these changes.



You know what happens when an organization or an individual refuses to change?  It dies.


          AT&T – anyone know what those initials mean? 


          American Telephone and TELEGRAPH. 


Who sends telegraph messages today?

I have one telegram in my scrap book.  I was 7 years old and a man came to the door and when my Mom and I answered it, the man said, “Telegram for Master William Maynard Pittendreigh.”  It was from my Dad sending me a birthday greeting from New York because he had to be there on business on my birthday.

No one sends telegrams anymore.  Western Union stopped in 2006. 

And no one refers to little boys as “Master” so and so – people haven’t done that in decades.


But AT&T – American Telephone and TELEGRAPH - is still a large company, earning $42 billion in revenue in 2016.  AT&T was founded in 1885, but it changed and adapted.  Along the way they understood that they were not in the telegraph business but the COMMUNICATION business.  Instead of telegraph machines, today they are into cable television, cell phones and internet technology. 


          They changed and adapted.


          On the other hand, there is the Kodak company.


          Back in my day, Kodak ruled the world’s photography culture.  Back in my day, I took photographs with a camera that held a roll of film.  I would then take the film in my dark room and developed the negatives.  When the negatives dried I put the negatives into an enlarger and projected an image on paper, then dipped the paper into a developing solution then a solution of fixer and let that paper dry.


          Those days are gone.  Very seldom does someone take pictures with film.  It’s all digital.


          Today, I take a picture with my telephone and in an instant I post it on Facebook and people all over the world can see it.


          Do you know what company invented the digital camera?


          But after they developed the digital camera in 1975, the company dropped it because they were afraid of change.  They felt threatened, so they tried to keep change from happening.  "Kodak's Last Days". February 5, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2012.


          Kodak is still a good company, but it is not the company it once was.  In 1988 the company employed 145,000 people.  Today it is about 6,000.  In 1999, the value of its stock was $80, earlier this week it was about $9. 


          You can change, or die. 


          Things change in our families. 

          Change happens at work and in school.

          Things even change in the church – believe it or not!


In Ezra, things were changing for the community of faith. 

Without getting too bogged down in the history, let me give you a brief summary. 

The people of Judah were invaded.  They rebelled.  They lost and were exiled in the land of their invaders.

Decades go by.

The time comes when politics change, and the people of Judah are beginning to be allowed to return home.  That brings us to the book of Ezra.


Big change!


The people who go back to Jerusalem find that it is not what they expected.  They grew up hearing stories of this great Temple of God, and they find it destroyed.  In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people begin the work to rebuild the Temple.


They could have easily sat back and done nothing about rebuilding the Temple. But they are willing to create change.

And as they rebuild the Temple, it is not the exact same thing as the former Temple.  It is new.  It is ----- different.

And when the foundations are laid in our Old Testament lesson, the younger people are thrilled, but the old dudes – they are in tears. 

They remember the way it used to be.

Oh the way it used to be.

The choir was so much better back then.  Now they sing these new songs. 

The curtains look like this now, but back then they looked different.


How do you deal with change?


First, accept it! Deal with it and move on!


In Ezra the people did not have much time to settle in once they returned from Exile.  They had about two months.  Maybe three.  They could easily have said, “Wait, you ask me to help building the Temple, let me build my house first.  Let me put my children in the best schools first.  Let me get adjusted to things.  Then call me in 18 months and I’ll help rebuild the Temple.”

No – they got right to work.

Earlier this week, I was talking with someone about the book and the movie, “Hidden Figures.” 

That is the story of some very smart folks who worked to put the first Americans in space.  They were human computers.  Before the age of the IBM Computer, these people had to do calculations with pencil and paper.  The story is particularly interesting because they were women and they were African American, and in the 1960s that meant they had a lot of obstacles placed before them by an unfair society.

But they overcame them.

One day, one of the supervisors discovers that NASA is installing a new IBM Computer.  She knows that she will soon become obsolete. 

Change is in the air!

She could have sat back and accepted things without taking action, but no, she embraces the change.  She teaches herself computer programming.  She teaches this to all of her team.  So that when the change takes place, they can work with computers.  They embrace the change and become part of it. 


          The second thing we can learn from Ezra is that you can handle change best if God is in the midst of the changes.

In Ezra, the people in his day accept change by beginning with God.  The first thing they did was to build the altar.  This meant they could make sacrifices and have worship.  They put God first.  They were not just building a monument to the past, they were building a relationship with God. 

          Whatever change comes in your life or to your church, put God first. 

          When you see changes happening in your church, you might be inclined to reject it because it is change!  But put God first.  If it is God bringing the change, you had better embrace that change.  It is one thing to resist change, but don’t be the one who resists God.

          Same thing with changes in your life.

          Getting married?  Put God first.

          Planning retirement?  Put God first.

          Starting college?  Put God first.


A third thing we can learn about embracing change is that it is important to have an unchanging anchor in your life.


In a world in which everything is changing, you have to have some anchors in your life that never change, that keep your life stable.


The problem is that many of us pick the wrong anchor to hold onto. 


For example, at one time, most Christian churches sang only from the Book of Psalms.  These were the divinely inspired hymns and people refused to sing any other songs.

Then came Isaac Watts.  He took the words of the Psalms and rearranged them and created brand new songs.  “When I survey the Wondrous Cross,”  “Joy to the World,” “Alas! And did my Savior Bleed.”

The response of some churches was division.

People wanted the old songs and others wanted the new ones. The church was changing back in 1700, and the church was changing.  Music was changing!

And as in any time of change, people needed some unchanging anchors to hold onto.

The problem is, many of them chose the old music they had grown up with as the unchanging anchor.

Bad choice.

Music was changing whether they liked it or not.


The only thing that does not change is God.

Of course you need something in your life that does not change – but the only thing in life that does not change is God.


In the New Testament, Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.


God never changes – so cling to God and God alone as your anchor in the storms of change.


As for music, it changed.  Some churches began to sing the songs of Isaac Watts and other contemporary music of the 18th Century.  Some churches held fast to the old music – and where are they now?  Can you find a church that only sings songs from the Old Testament Book of Psalms?  No.  They died out in my great grandfather’s time.


Change – it is difficult.

But you have to live with it.  Because like it or not, things do change.

But in the midst of change, hang onto God who never changes.  Let God and God alone be the stability in your life.


And now unto God the Father,

God the Son,

And God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, power, dominion and glory, today and forever, Amen.

Copyright 2017. 

Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh

All rights reserved


Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.