Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Same Jesus Who Changes Everything—28 August - 3 September, Year C, Proper 22

Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. Look at verse 8 in the Hebrews reading (ch13). I'm not the same as I was yesterday. Neither are you. The Anglican Church isn't. St Barnabas isn't. Jesus is. So what?

We live in a world of change. In fact, we live in a world where the pace of change is growing faster and faster. So fast that if, as someone said, we're not confused, we're not thinking straight. Pastor, preacher and author, James Ryle, describes it as a part of a cycle in our lives: change challenges us. Challenge makes obedient. Obedience makes us healthy. Healthy things grow.

Change challenges us. No kidding. Life is full of it: the full on growth and learning of infancy, childhood and puberty, education, marriage (or not), parenting (or not), career, retirement, old age, death. Same in the church: BCP to BAS, the old organic hymns to contemporary songs of praise. New ideas. Disagreements. Conflict. Remember the story of the old Scottish Presbyterian elder a visitor met while exploring his even older church. "I bet you've seen a lot of change around here," the visitor said. "Aye," the elder replied, "and I've opposed every one of them." How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? two; one to change it and the other to prefer the old one. The only constant in life is change, someone also said. Which is not true. The other and more important constant, the one who doesn't change and yet who changes everything, is Jesus Christ, Risen Lord and Saviour, who meets us here today.

So change challenges us. The next point in Ryle's change-cycle is this: challenge makes us obedient. That's true. Change can be unsettling. The question for me and you is, to what, or whom, will I be obedient? When I'm unsettled, I want to try and regain some sort of equilibrium, I look for something to help. I want some peace—some solid ground—a blankie. All sorts of appetites begin to clamour for attention: eat me, look at me, buy me, wear me, enjoy me, use me, waste me—I'll make you feel better. None of them, of course, can or will bring peace. To obey those calls, insistent as they are, is an obedience in the wrong direction. They are the equivalents of the "cracked cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer 2:13) we read about in Jeremiah. God created and allows life's challenges to urge and point us to The One who doesn't change and who will be our constant, our anchor, as we are tossed about by life's changes. Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever, is the only one worthy of our obedience.

Change challenges us, challenge makes us obedient. Next is, obedience makes us healthy. Obey what, in particular? Holy Scripture provides health-giving principles to obey. There are some hints in our readings this morning:

For example, here's a question to ask ourselves from Jeremiah: look at verses 6 and 8: "Where is the LORD?" God was not pleased with the Israelites for not asking that question more often as they faced the changes and chances of their lives. It is a good one for me, too. Where is the LORD to be found in this changing situation? Where is his stability, his constancy? What is the thing I must obey which will make me and keep me healthy? Obedience makes us healthy.

There is also a list of practical actions in Hebrews (ch13) which, if obeyed, will lead to health: love mutually (v1), show hospitality (v2), honour marriage (v4), be content with what you have (v5), worship (v15), do good (v16). Obedience makes us healthy.

Here's the best one.  Look at the first verse of the gospel (Lk 14:1): "they were watching him closely." That's Jesus they were watching, Jesus was challenging them but they weren't interested in obeying him. They were looking for ways to condemn him. It is, however, a good reminder for us, who live in in the midst of life's often confusing and challenging changes and chances. Want to be healthy? As yourself where Jesus is in the situation. Watch Jesus closely. You know the best places for Jesus watching: in the Holy Scriptures, in the worship of the church. Obedience makes us healthy.

Finally, healthy things grow. Live like this and I will grow spiritually. So will you. Live like this and St Barnabas will grow. As we grow, we will change. Change challenges us. Challenge makes us obedient. Obedience makes us healthy in Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever.