“Embracing Change: One Day At A Time” – August 6, 2017

Rev. Bruce Lamb

August 6, 2017

9th Sunday After Pentecost

“Embracing Change….One Day At A Time”

Good morning. I greet you with the joy and the love of our Lord as we celebrate this day baptizing Aleesha and celebrate this time of worship together. It is good to be together today.

I invite you to pray with me as we consider the theme for this morning’s message that is changed from the original sermon title you see printed in your bulletins. You see as I was praying about today and writing this message God placed a different theme on my heart for me to share with you to specifically speak to what’s going on in the life of our church. You see our beloved faith communities are going through a time of change as I outlined in the letter that went out this week to both churches addressing next steps in our merger process coming together as one that we will embrace one day at a time. So today I will speak to what’s going on in many of our hearts and minds today responding to this letter. Our theme today is, “Embracing Change: One Day At A Time.”

 

So friends, What are some things that make you uncomfortable or uncomfortable in the church? I thought we would have a discussion today about things that make us uncomfortable. What are the topics we don’t like to discuss in church? Share with me outloud– homelessness, money…others?

Money, homelessness, jail or poverty, change.

What about change church? Are we comfortable with that? Many of us are not comfortable with change.

What about Homelessness church?

I’d like to share the story with you about a pastor that dressed up as homeless man.

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went into to a 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the new head pastor that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service. Only 3 of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for coins to buy food and no one in the church gave him any money. He went to the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.

He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him. As he sat in the back of the church he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation.

We would like to introduce you to Pastor Jeremiah Steepek. The congregation looked around with joy and anticipation. The pastor dressed as a homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him. He walked up to the altar and took the microphone from the elders who were in on this and paused for a moment then he recited – “Then the King will say to those on his right, Come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you, since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

….The King will reply, truly I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters you did for me.” After he recited this he looked toward the congregation and told them all he what experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples, When will YOU decide to become disciples?”       He then dismissed the service until next week and sent them all home. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ should be more than just talk, it ought to be a lifestyle.

You can watch this YouTube video of this pastor that I posted on my Facebook page.

As you can see from this story this congregation was highly uncomfortable with something that didn’t essentially fit their preconceived view of what their church should be.

So rather than sitting with the discomfort and seeing it as a new opportunity to reach out and help someone they closed themselves off to a new opportunity to maintain a false view of a perfect church rather than being comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Finding comfort in the uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. For some of us change that has been in the works for several months or even years can feel abrupt or sudden because it’s actually happening. We all process things differently. Some of us are excited to embrace change and move forward and others need more time or will never be ready or want to find comfort in the uncomfortable by embracing change and that’s ok, because we are all human. It takes time to embrace change. It’s a process.

Why? Why are people uncomfortable going through change? You might have been uncomfortable with change when you were finishing school, changing jobs, moving to a new home. Sending your kid off to college. Loosing a pet or a loved one. Some of us are uncomfortable with the change that is taking place in our church.

How do we find comfort in the uncomfortable? We trust in the Lord and embrace change one day at a time. When we move forward in our faith it’s not always comfortable.

The reality of the situation is that continuing to be separate rather than one is not sustainable, but God is not through with Ardsley and St. Paul’s. We are all at different places processing this. Rather than placing blame, we need to be gentle with one another and know that we are all at different places and that’s ok. If we are not open to change within our churches we will further dwindle away. We can be open to change and embrace it one step at a time or we can fight it.

Change is hard, but with change comes growth and new opportunities.

To change, to make or become different. Author Stephanie Ballard says in an article titled, “Why Is Change So Hard?”[1], “change, transformation, alteration….however, one may choose to name it, can be seen all around us. Whether this change is making healthier lifestyle choices, or deciding to be a little more friendly to that colleague at work, more often than not we all have personal behaviors we wish we could adjust, stop or start.” Change is all around us.

Ballard reminds us that from a young age we are introduced to change, some more often than others, and somewhere along the line we begin to form our own perceptions on the subject. The mere mention of the word change may cause some to feel uneasy. We often find ourselves resisting change, perhaps because of the perceived risk or fear associated with it.

Church, even I get uncomfortable with change too. We are all human.

Everyone to a certain degree is uncomfortable with change. Embrace it, own it and don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed because you’re uncomfortable. It’s ok to be mad, or nervous, or excited but know that we will take this one step at a time and God is with us.

Just think when we get to the other side how adaptable and resilient we are going to feel. If we don’t change we don’t open ourselves to new beginnings, new opportunities and growth.

We can grow as the body of Christ together by embracing change. Just think of the vibrancy we have experienced this summer by worshipping together with 50 people and what growth and new opportunities can come from this.

But we must move forward. If there was no planting there will be no harvesting. If there was no pruning there would be no growth. We will move forward planting new seeds together.

One basic and fundamental definition of insanity and you know what it is – doing things the same way and yet expecting different results. Rather than letting two churches continue to dwindle we have a great opportunity to do a bold new thing and plant new seeds of life together.

We find in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes a very familiar scripture. Verses one through eight make an extravagant claim on the providence and the provision of God. Our God that sustains our very being. Our God that transcends time.

Ecclesiastes speaks poetically and powerfully about how our God who loves us in and through every detail of our lives and how God uses every opportunity, every moment, every setback, every set-up to create something new in us and through us and yes even in spite of us. Our God who is always working everything together for his good, to manifest his love and grace and justice in our lives and in the world.

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1 says “there is a season for everything.” Let the church say, “everything.”

There is a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heaven.

God is always at work. Always at work doing something amazing and transformative. The writer of Ecclesiastes uses the metaphor of seasons and time. Most of us can wrap our minds around this concept because we know that the natural world has seasons and rhythms.

Say, “seasons and rhymes.”

The sun rises and the sun sets. There is rain and there is fog and there is sun. There is morning, then there is afternoon and then there is evening. There is sowing and harvesting and fruitfulness and barrenness. The natural world has seasons and rhythms. So it is with our very lives and we are reminded that in our very lives and in the life of our church there are seasons and rhythms that bring forth new opportunities for change and with change comes growth. Times where we are holding on and other times where we have to do what? – let go. Let go and let God.

But thanks be to God that even in the midst of these seasons and rhythms in our lives when everything within us and around us is changing and bringing forth new opportunities we know what is predictable. We know what is trustworthy and true and dependable and what is reliable. The very love and grace of God that sustains us for the journey.

Let us be bold, not just simply good but be bold change makers living into this new opportunity sitting in the temporary discomfort and reflecting on the new opportunities God has in store for us.

Let us dare to dream God’s dream.

To God be the glory for what God has done, for what God is doing and that which is yet to come.

Amen church? Amen. To God be the glory.

Let us pray: Lord we want to make a difference for you in the world. Help our ministries to impact the world and be difference makers loving and serving and transforming and reflecting the light and love and mercy and justice of Christ amid the darkness of this world. Amen.

[1] Ballard, Stephanie. “Why Is Change So Hard?” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201608/why-is-change-so-hard

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