Some things never change. Have you noticed? For us earthlings and matters that surround us, that's not always a good thing. For God, it's a good thing. I take great comfort in knowing that none of the attributes, none of the characteristics of God ever change. You might say that because of the unchanging love, mercy, grace, wisdom, compassion and faithfulness of God I CAN change--change my attitudes and behavior; change my priorities and become more the person God created me to be. That's been on my mind a lot in the last several months. As an individual, a child of God, there is always room for change. As a body of believers, the Church (big and little "c"), there is always room for change, no matter what our denomination.
We've been trying to get back to Wednesday night supper and program at the church now that it's getting warmer. We have missed so many worship services and other things that people had begun to notice and wonder if we were all right. It is nice to be missed, but here's the funny thing and I have watched it happen in most churches. People will express "how glad they are to see you," but not really include you. While we were eating Wednesday night I told Tom that I didn't think I'd go to supper any more and he was surprised. I said, "Well, we don't come because of the food; we come for the fellowship and we could visit with one another a lot better sitting at our table, eating our food." Most nights at the church we eat at one of the tables for eight by ourselves--we aren't part of any of the groups at the other tables. I watched that happen to newcomers to the older adult lunch group in the last church where I served and never stopped trying to preach, "practice hospitality." What does unfriendliness, what does being exclusive say about our faith? Is this a place where a need for change is indicated?
During Lent the minister, the parish associate and the educator (our son) have taught a series based on Bible passages we might not ordinarily associate with Lent. Wednesday Tommy taught on the story of the lame man who was brought to Jesus by four friends and Mary washing Jesus's feet with perfume. In the first passage we talked about repentance and relationships and about Mary's unwavering love for Jesus in the second. Some of Tommy's teaching started me to think. If you notice in Mark 2, when the friends lower the man through the roof and Jesus sees them, He says "Your sins are forgiven." That's not really what they expected--they came for healing for their friend. And, it's because of their faith that the sins are forgiven. Usually, when we teach this passage, we point to Jesus's authority and ability to forgive sins because of who He is, but I've been thinking about the faith of the friends and the relationship between them and the lame man. The relationship was such that they shared their faith; they wanted so much for the man to have an encounter with Jesus that they were willing to go to great lengths to make in happen.
Mary, on the other hand, is all about Jesus. He is her focus and she is criticized for the expense to which she went to express her love for Him.
How do these passages and our experience at supper relate to one another? And where does change fit into the picture? I think we start with Mary and her focus. We need to not just say that we love Jesus. We need to live like we do, no matter what the cost. When we focus on Jesus, that attitude which was in Him will change our attitude to be the same as His. Then, we need to care about people. Know that we are the face of the Church. Hospitality is about receiving and caring about others. It's about sharing what we have--the best of what we have. If you come to my house for dinner, I'm going to go out of my way to see that you are comfortable and well fed. Why, then, would I not want to share Jesus, "the best that I have?"
Friends, change needs to take place in all of us and in all of our churches. We need to be like Mary and focus on the Lord of the Church and we need to be like the friends and share Jesus. A change in us can bring about a change in our world.
Thanks for reading and letting me speak my piece. If you care about change and want some practical, prayerful help, read Evelyn Christiansen's, Lord, Change Me. It's a good place to start.