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COPING WITH CHANGE

(Notes for a Seminar for 'Cinema Sunday' workshop Boronia Baptist Church - Aug 26, 2001)

INTRODUCTION

There used to be a saying that there are only two certainties in life; death
and taxes. Well death hasn't been eliminated, but it has been postponed a
few years, and taxes are being widely avoided. So the only certainty that
some people reckon on is the fact of change. We live in a changing world.
'The only constant. is change.'

My aunt a few years ago at 97 used to say; 'I just don't know what the world
is coming to!' And then she would launch into a tirade of terrible things,
followed by a lecture of longing for the good old days.

Now I am old enough to have rather enjoyed this recollection of the past.
You young things on my right can't imagine a world without computers,
television, biros, fridges, telephones etc. But neither can you recall
wasted hours up a mulberry tree, eating mulberries 'til your fingers dripped
with the purple juice, or swinging on an old tyre swing dangling between
grape vine trellises, munching into bunch after bunch of delectable
muscatels. You would never have come home from school to see your mother
still in the wash house, stirring clothes in the hot copper above a wood
fire, then lifting them out with the copper stick and scrubbing them against
a washing board and wringing them all out by hand.

They were the good old days.

Is there anyone here who would like to go back there?

I hope not. But we build on our past. Our past is precious and it is
valuable. But it cannot be repeated!

Tradition has a very useful role in our lives. People who have lost touch
with their roots, who have no memory, are not quite whole, but there is a
danger of tradition becoming absolute. You've heard the story of the
newly-weds on a limited budget. He was shocked to observe her cutting both
ends off their first ham before baking it. Why? Because that's how my mother
did it. When questioning his mother-in-law her response was the same and
because grandmother was still alive he questioned her. 'That's the only way
it can fit in my pan.'

This sort of thing happens in churches, perhaps more than anywhere else. The
seven last words of the church are 'We've never done it that way before!'
(Maybe not so much at Boronia).

A LAMENT TO THE LORD
They've brought you up to date Lord, down at Saint Cecilia's.
They've pensioned off the organ, and they're praising with guitars.
They've done it for the young ones; we want to draw them in,
But I do wish they could worship without making such a din.
For I'm growing rather deaf Lord, and when there's all that noise,
It gets so very hard Lord, to hear your loving voice.

They've written brand new hymns Lord, with tunes that I don't know,
So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so.
They're very go-ahead Lord, they're doing 'series three',
But the words are not so beautiful as the others used to be

They've modernised the Bible and the Lord's Prayer and the Creed
When the old ones were so perfect that they filled my every need.
My mind's not quite so agile, as it was some years ago
And I miss the age-old beauty of the words I used to know.

It's very clear to me Lord, I've overstayed my time;
I don't take to change so kindly as I did when in my prime.
But it can't be very long now before I'm called above,
And I know I'll find you there Lord, and glory in your love.

So 'til then I'll stick it out here, though it's not the same for me,
But while others call you 'You', Lord, do you mind if I say 'Thee'?

Are you all crying?

Every growing person is changing, 'putting away childish things'. But for
many of us, we are more comfortable if there is no change.

Remember in Exodus 3, at the burning bush how God acknowledged to Moses that
He had seen the misery of the Hebrew people and God said 'Moses you are the
change agent'. Following Moses' vociferous objections, God simply said 'I am
who I am' and over-ruled all his complaints. Then by verse 4 we find change
is inevitable.

There's a cute little book written by an American called 'Who Moved the
Cheese?' It's about four mice who live in a maze. Two of them are more like
very tiny people and two are real mice. The two mice are always able to
sense where the cheese has been moved to but the two people are forever
getting frustrated in the maze. The writer has six sayings about cheese;

1. Keep it moving - change happens.  2. Anticipate change.  3. The sooner
you let go of the old the better.  4. Move with the cheese.  5. Enjoy the
change.  6. Be ready to move again.

So I have said that most of us prefer that nothing changes. We are like the
human mice. We prefer our secure world.

It is also true that change is not a logical process. It is emotional. We
are saying goodbye to the old, and we are taking a risk. In fact all change
creates a certain amount of denial, and the leaders of the change resent the
deniers. Resistance arises - the costs are too high. People sense the loss.
Emotions run high, so why not have a grieving service where we accept that
it is appropriate to feel sad?

I read of a lady who laid claim to a certain pew in church each Sunday
morning and resented anybody sitting in it. After one heated explosion the
pastor decided to visit this lady and get to the bottom of her fixation. She
told him that she and her husband had always sat in that pew with their five
children. Gradually the children all left home leaving her husband and
herself to occupy it alone. Since her husband died she still sat there and
remembered the good old days when they were all together.

The pastor asked her to talk to the congregation about their involvement in
the church as a family in those 'good old days'. After doing this she never
had to sit in that pew again. Her past had been affirmed.

So not only is change something we don't welcome easily, but it is
emotional, and our past ought to be recognised and 'validated'.

As we read on in Chapter 4 of Exodus, Moses continues to argue with the Lord
until..Notice verses 14-18. Moses' link with the past brought security.

THE BAD NEWS ABOUT CHANGE - The frog when placed in a saucepan of water and
brought to the boil doesn't think to jump out because its skin is
insensitive to the temperature increase. Like frogs we prefer to avoid
change.

1. Change is painful and often means loss
2. It's disturbing, upsetting things as we have known them
3. It disorientates; we are creatures of habit
4. It involves risk; the future becomes uncertain
5. It makes us insecure, so we resist it

Yet change is unavoidable. The modern world is constantly changing, and we
serve a dynamic God who has plans for our lives that involve change

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT CHANGE -

1. It is necessary to life and growth - what isn't growing dies
2. It can be exciting and challenging - it stretches us and teaches us new
things
3. It is faith-producing as we place the future in God's hands
4. It keeps us up to date. How can we share the good news with out of date
methods?

So change is also hazardous, perplexing and uncomfortable.

But who wants to be a boiled frog?

THE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE IS WITHIN US - as a church and as an individual.
Let's identify the way we have changed in the last 6 months.

In chapters 1 & 2 of Philippians Paul noted many sources of joy -
fellowship, sharing the gospel, unity with other believers. Yet the ultimate
joy (expressed in Chapter 3) is found in Christ himself. It is not an
experience for the future but also for this present life. It is being
achieved as we 'put no confidence in the flesh', as we count not what we
have done but only what Christ has done, as we abandon all reliance on our
own achievements

In Romans 8:11 Paul spoke in the same vein: 'If the spirit of him who raised
Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in
you.'

As Jesus' body was buried, so we bury the rubbish that we once considered
our righteousness. Then while standing by the grave of our self, we hear
Christ's invitation to share his sufferings and experience the power of his
resurrection.

It's only then with this ongoing change occurring within that we can truly
serve. Only then can we be inspired and equipped to change even a small part
of this world of ours and to see that justice is done in some situation
somewhere, small though our contribution may be.

CONCLUSION

Philippians 3:12 - Not that I have already obtained this or have already
reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has
made me his own.

Written by Jan Croucher, August 2001.

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
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