We are creatures of habit, you and I. There is something strangely familiar and a little comforting about routine. Many of us can probably do many things throughout the day without thinking about every single step it takes. One of the things I can do without engaging much (if any) of my brain is making my morning coffee. This is a good thing that I don’t need my brain for this because I feel like I don’t start functioning without my coffee. But we all have these things in our lives. I’ve even talked with people who say things like “I was on my way to such and such and missed the turn completely because my car is so used to going to that other place.” Our habits are what keep us going. Our habits are what keep us sane. Our habits give us comfort and familiarity.
The only thing that could disrupt this little happy habit nirvana is a little 6 letter word that strikes fear into the hearts of man, woman, and child. CHANGE. I feel like if this were a dramatic or suspenseful movie, this is where the music would play “dum-dum-duuuummmmm.” Not change! Anything but that!
And I could put on my best pastor voice and say “but change is good! Change is healthy!” But most will, inevitably, want to curl up in a ball, have a good cry, and complain “I don’t want to change!” Maybe I’m over exaggerating.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know change is hard. In some certain circumstances change is actually a bad thing. Chris and I have dear friends from seminary and their teenage son has high functioning autism. However, change is one of the worst things that could happen to this young man; it leads to a major meltdown. If you have a loved one with memory issues like alzheimer’s or dementia, a routine may be keeping them safe and so change is out of the question.
But for the rest of us, whether we like it or not, change does and will happen. Whether we like it or not. There seems to be this idea that Lutherans are known for despising change. I’ll let you in on a little secret here, friends. We don’t have the market cornered on despising change. Remember our silent enemy “WADITW” or “we’ve always done it that way?” He doesn’t just live here. WADITW takes up residence at every church. And again, it can be completely life giving. There is something to be said about tradition. At the same time, encouraging something to live means letting other things die. Sometimes we have to let go of the identity we have in order to fully live into the identity that God is calling us to.
Believe it or not, Jesus was a man of habit too. You only need to read the Bible to see that he did a lot of the same things: fed people, cured people, taught people. These weren’t bad habits, obviously. But, since he was both human AND divine, it’s easy to see how he would be a creature of habit, just like us. The Canaanite woman comes to Jesus, begging, we can assume, for her daughter (who is tortured by a demon) to be cured. And while she doesn’t ask for her daughter to be cured, I doubt anyone would have shared that kind of information with Jesus and not expect him to cure whomever was ailing.
And Jesus’ first reaction wasn’t “sure, whatever you ask for” but instead “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” What Jesus could have been saying was “helping you might mean I have to change who I am helping and I’m not a huge fan of change.” Was Jesus testing the woman? Was he testing those around him? We will never know. We only know what was said. The woman was Canaanite, Jesus told her he only helps those from Israel. It would be like going to Genesis in DeWitt and being told “we only take patients that live in DeWitt.” But this woman is persistent. She begs him again “Lord, help me.” To her credit she was persistent. This woman challenges Jesus to change. That’s pretty bold. Maybe, just maybe we need that challenge too.
I love stories about how churches welcome new visitors. Now, I know this would never happen here, so it’s okay if we laugh at this. But, a visitor will come along and take a seat. Then the regular church member will come to the same pew and the visitor will say “hello, I’m new, my name is such and such” and the regular church member will usually respond with “hi. You’re in my pew.” That really doesn’t make someone feel welcome.
Sometimes the same discussions surround helping others in our community. We are often leary, and we have a right to be, of course. What if someone tries to take advantage of us? What if we help this one person or organization and they tell others that we help…then we’ll be overwhelmed with requests for assistance? I will say it again, brothers and sisters. In order to grow into who God is calling us to be, we have to let other pieces of us die. That means that we may be called to serve people or communities that we’ve never served before. But, if that is what God is calling us to then are we dare going to say “no” to God?
Change means serving those undocumented children who cross the border from war torn countries hoping just to find a meal and a place to sleep that isn’t bullet ridden from gang violence. Change means serving those whose darkness we can’t even imagine; people who, like Robin Williams, have thoughts of self harm all too often. Change means serving our veterans, whether we agree with the war or not. Change means serving those who don’t look like us; like unarmed African American teenagers like Mike Brown. Change means being willing to literally tear down walls and make room for the mission that God is calling us to. Change means we say “I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
We can’t be afraid to change. Jesus was challenged and he changed. We have our own set of challenges here that are not unlike the challenges that other congregations face. We have a smaller number of young people involved. We have many of the same people doing the same jobs over and over. But, at the same time, we are also trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us where we need to go. This is a great time to be the church. We have the ability to accomplish things that government organizations and other non-profits can’t: we bring Christ to people. We are God’s hands and feet in this world. We are bread and wine for a hungry world. We are good news in a world that hears nothing but bad news constantly. We can tell of salvation for a world that desperately needs saved. We can be a place of welcome for those who are lost. We can be a place of shelter for those who need it. We can be listening ears for the hurt.
Change doesn’t have to be some kind of gigantic boulder. It can be as small as a crumb under the table that the dog would normally eat. Trust me, if you bend, you won’t break.