Isaiah 49:8-11,13, 16 (MSG)
Fellowship of Faith – February 26, 2017
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Isaiah 49:8-11,13, 16 (MSG)
God also says:
“When the time’s ripe, I answer you.
When victory’s due, I help you.
I form you and use you
to reconnect the people with me,
To put the land in order,
to resettle families on the ruined properties.
I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!’
and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’
There’ll be foodstands along all the roads,
picnics on all the hills—
Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty,
shade from the sun, shelter from the wind,
For the Compassionate One guides them,
takes them to the best springs.
I’ll make all my mountains into roads,
turn them into a superhighway.
Heavens, raise the roof! Earth, wake the dead!
Mountains, send up cheers!
God has comforted his people.
He has tenderly nursed his beaten-up, beaten-down people.
Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.
The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.
Your builders are faster than your wreckers.
It’s all around us.
It seems like everywhere we turn we have change and more change.
In our families … in our aging bodies … in our churches … and certainly, in our nation and the world.
The slogan … the motto … of South Church is “Transform Your Spirit, Transform Our World.” We may not be able to change the WORLD right now, but we CAN change ourselves and how we see things. We can PREPARE ourselves to see the world through the eyes of Christ.
And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Isaiah quotes God as saying:
I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me.
That’s a pretty tall order, given the state of affairs around us in the world right now, isn’t it? To reconnect people with God? – But it all starts with us. If WE are connected then those around us will be able to connect more easily, too.
And I’ve been wondering: How do we stay connected during times of massive change?
For some of us, change happens slowly and for others, quickly. But all of us are facing changes, whether we are talking about our planet and climate change, our country and political change, our own families as they change, our neighborhood that’s changing, or our church. Change is afoot. We are part of a large shift right now that cuts across many institutions.
And contrary to public opinion, shifts are not always BAD … many shifts move into a more benevolent or creative state. We find SOLUTIONS where there were none before. So why is it that when we experience the unexpected right now, some of us go immediately to fear.
The answer, I think, is partly because THIS change is huge … this one is changing the consciousness of our church. This change that we’re making by selling the building and re-defining what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century makes us ask questions we may never have asked BEFORE and we are awakening to new truths … about Jesus … about what it means to be baptized INTO him … about who we are CALLED to be in this world.
This word CHANGE can remind us of how to move through the process though. So I’m going to offer up some of Lee’s observations about change in terms of C H A N G and E.
C = I’m thinking stands for COHERENCE.
We find coherence in the way things fit together. We like things always the same because we know how life WORKS. There’s a coherence that makes us want to stay in the same place. It’s like inertia … a body at rest wants to stay at rest. It feels GOOD b/c we’ve figured it out and we think that we know what’s next. It’s comforting. It’s the known.
If we have a circle of friends, for instance, and then someone brings somebody new into it … it can mean a huge change. Sometimes we want to quit b/c the coherence has changed. Everything that USED to be is starting to shift a little and often we don’t like the way it feels at all. The newcomer can change the attitude and awareness of the circle as we knew it.
So we either quit, or we fight to keep it the same way. At least that’s what we did when we were 8 years old on the playground … but it’s not what Jesus teaches us. He was ALWAYS drawing the circle larger and showing us NEW ways of doing life. And then we develop NEW COHERENCE.
H = is for THE HARD TIME WE HAVE WITH THE GREAT LIE.
What’s the Great Lie, you ask? It’s that everything that’s GOING to happen in the future is the same as what HAS ALREADY happened in the past and that the past was some golden age that we should be holding on to.
Nothing new can really be any good because if it were, we would have already tried it. But what if the future COULD be filled with things we’ve never seen and they are BETTER than what’s happened before? We cannot only look at what WAS. Sometimes we have to look at what COULD BE.
The Big Lie is that every time there’s a change, it’s bad news. Just remember, though: God has the power to do things in a different way.
A = is for ANXIETY.
Anxiety creeps in when we face the unknown and we forget WHOSE we are. We get anxious when we forget that God’s got our back. That “NOTHING will happen to us today, God, that you and I together, can’t handle.”.
Yet some of us see change ITSELF as the enemy and treat it that way because it disrupts what was and we don’t like that.
But EVERYTHING changes.
We have to replace anxiety with trust … trust for God and God’s process.
N = is to remind us that NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS
If you follow Jesus, you know THAT’s true. A bunch of fishermen, a political rabble rouser, a tax collector, and a Palestinian Jewish carpenter who was the son of a teenage, unwed mother who then had to flee the country and become an undocumented immigrant … they were HARDLY who you would suspect as capable of changing the WORLD. Yet they did. NOTHING is as it seems with God.
When it comes to the changes we’re experiencing now, nothing is as it seems. WE see turmoil; GOD see faithfulness. WE see uncertainty; GOD sees a plan. Trust it.
Things are shifting now within the Church as a whole. They’re shifting in ways that have not happened before.
Blessed are the Believers who can sit back, watching and waiting without anxiety … without pre-conceived notions of how it will end up.
So I invite you in the days and months ahead to see a clean slate before you. When something comes up that might look too large and daunting … no matter what is going on … see your world as a blackboard with nothing on it … NOTHING. And know that whatever God writes upon it you can accept, even if it is nothing like what has happened in the past.
I have to tell you that there are things that are going to change that are BEYOND what we expect. You think the changes lately are difficult? I can guarantee that there will be even more that upset the applecart of “normal.” In order to move us to where we are going, to be part of a larger change … in the church … in the world … in ourselves, we have to be able to accept “the NEW normal.”
And we DO that when we stay personally balanced … Grounded in God. THAT’s the job of the Believer. To be personally balanced and aligned with God no matter what’s going on around us. To be so connected to God and Jesus and the Spirit that when we get knocked off our center, our automatic pilot re-rights us. And that only happens when we take time for our own personal, spiritual practice every day. Read. Study. Pray. Listen. Nothing is as it seems. Silence the world outside in order to hear the Spirit inside.
G = is to remind us to focus on the GREAT GIFT.
I want you to imagine a time in the future when these changing times are behind you. And see yourself there looking back on these times. Just THINK of how you will be able to recognize that these changes were the greatest GIFT that we were ever given.
There WILL come a time when we will realize that we would never have gotten where we are without the gift of this shift that right now seems tumultuous.
That’s the beauty of being a believer. Being able to see a GIFT in the midst of turmoil. When we can do that, we can LEAN into God and enjoy the ride.
Things may not go where we THINK they will … so the question is: can we accept something even BETTER than we can imagine? Can we ACCEPT another surprise? BELIEVERS can … because we know we are part of the great shift toward the KOG.
And finally, E = BEAUTIFUL ENERGY.
The energy of completion, compassion, balance, understanding and a good night’s sleep. When all is well in life, we sleep deep.
When we don’t sleep well it’s because WE are deciding what’s wrong and what to worry about instead of just settling in to God’s embrace … falling asleep in the arms of the angels who KNOW that all is well.
I’m convinced, my friends, that we are siting in one of the greatest shifts that has ever come to the Christian Church. It is a time of NEW Reformation when the Spirit is re-forming the Body of Christ for the next 1,000 years, and WE are part of it.
I believe that we are on the road to a planet that will never WAR again … where EVERYONE will matter and be cherished. The KOG is making itself visible in this world just as Jesus said it would.
And in the process of getting there, we will all have to slog through some things. It might take another generation before we all get there, but the work that we are doing right now to bring about the KOG … in THIS time and place … even in this tiny little church … is VITAL to the HUGE transformation in human evolution.
Some people are DESPERATE to hold on to the OLD ways … they’re not living as Resurrection Christians where the old has to DIE in order to give way to the New and BETTER life.
Jesus teaches us that we cannot just take an old energy … the old way of doing and thinking about things … and just reframe it overnight.
And this is all very good news.
This is GREAT news … This is the great, TRANSFORMATIVE news of Jesus and his teachings.
We are starting to think LESS about what WAS or what we THINK will be, and we’re starting to open ourselves to the possibilities for what God MIGHT be doing here.
How long will it take? When will it happen? Not soon enough for some and WAY too fast for others. But every day, there are things to be learned and things to be done by us.
When the time’s ripe, I answer you. When victory’s due, I help you. I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me,
To put the land in order …
And so, my brothers and sisters, we can rest easily: all is well; God’s in charge.
Recognizing that our default is wanting to hold on to Coherence, and the Hard Time we have dealing with the Great Lie … keeping our Anxiety at bay, while remembering that Nothing is as it seems … learning to recognize the GIFTS we have from God in order to embrace the new ENERGY … this is the process of Change.
This is what our country is going through right now.
And this is how Spirit is calling us to help others reconnect with God. Change is Good … It is not to be feared. It is to be embraced because God is in the details of the change. “Transform Your Spirit, Transform Our World.”
And so it is. To God be the glory … Amen.