One of the first signs of the aging process is the discovery that hair is temporary. Sight is temporary as well. I’m currently working three pair of glasses: one for driving, one for reading, and one for the computer. There are other signs of our temporary nature too. Many of us used to be able to eat anything and not gain a pound, but now we’re a little soft around the middle and one cheeseburger away from a whole new wardrobe. Nighttime also lets us know that things are changing. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but my guess is that a fair number of us can walk from the bed to the bathroom with our eyes shut. Practice has taught us this amazing skill.
Getting older is doubly hard when we admit that we live in a culture that prizes youthfulness. So what do we do? We try hard to at least look young even if we’re not young. But our bodies usually give us away. Our hands exhibit swollen knuckles and liver spots. Our faces drop and our chins droop. Women get hot flashes and men take blue pills. All signs of our getting older, all signs of the fact that this life is temporary, that change is inevitable, that there is nothing permanent about us or the world around us. Something is always changing, whether it’s the stock market or the doctor’s diagnosis.
The younger generations seem to handle change better. It is has been said the younger generations are the first to not only accept change but to expect change. “Hey, when’s the new I-Pad coming out.” But while this may be true with regard to technology and even the winds of culture, the younger generations, just like the older, yearn for some sense of permanence when faced with the mortal truth that we are all here one day and gone the next.
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Scripture tells us, that God is the only one who doesn’t change, yet God loves to see things change, especially you and me. Change means growth, and God knows we all need to grow. So God makes good use of both the positive and negative changes in our lives to create opportunities for us to grow and mature, for us to become something more than we were just yesterday.
When Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on the back of a colt, he was telling the people that he was not only a king, but that was a king who came in peace. The irony is that in less than a week the crowds who cheered his peaceful kingly arrival turned into crowds that violently cried out for his death. The change that Jesus brought was not the sort of change people had in mind. Jesus’ ways were too new to them. Jesus’ ideas about God were too progressive. Jesus’ teachings about forgiving enemies and considering Samaritans neighbors and welcoming home sinners — this was all just too much for those in power to stand. Jesus was upsetting the little bit of security and permanence that had been carved out for a people who lived under Roman occupation.
So, those in power did what anyone would do when threatened, they conspired to get rid of the threat. They conspired among themselves to have Jesus crucified by the Romans. And it was a good plan. Jesus’ enemies thought they could fix the problem once and for all. They thought they could take control of the situation and put a permanent end to this “ever-growing, ever-changing Jesus problem.” Even some of Jesus’ own followers thought his crucifixion would be the end of the story. That was that, it’s over. But, of course, that was not to be the case. It would appear that, with God, even the most obvious and apparent endings are not permanent.
Sometimes what threatens us, what scares us the most, is exactly what we need to grow. If we never take any risks in life we’ll end up leading a pretty boring life, but more than that, we’ll end up never growing into the people God wants us to become. A ship in the harbor may be safe, but that’s not what ships were made for.
To embody faith is risky. To believe in what cannot be seen, what cannot and will not ever be proven scientifically, is to risk being labeled “backwards” or “not modern” or “fanatical” or “superstitious” or just plain “kooky.” And yet without faith we become a part of the world around us, a world that is greatly threatened by the thought of death, so much so that it has created a myth to live by, a myth that says you and I can be perpetually young; a myth that says we can live forever and that we can look like those people in the magazines if we would just buy all the right beauty products, and take all the right pharmaceuticals, eat all the right foods, and save up for all the right plastic surgeries.
But that wasn’t the message Jesus brought. Jesus’ message crushes that myth. Jesus’ message threatens the myth that says anything other than God is permanent, the myth that says change is avoidable. Jesus’ came with the message that says not only is this life temporary, but that change is unavoidable, and more than that — change in this life is GOOD and NECESSARY and should be sought out as if we’re looking for buried treasure!
Now, of course, the people in power in Jesus’ day didn’t like this message because it upset the status quo, it was counter to what they’d been teaching. They didn’t want to look foolish. They didn’t want to lose their position within society. And they sure didn’t want to follow a man who ate with sinners and associated with women in public and loved his enemies. They couldn’t possibly follow such a man because that would mean, that would mean…change.
And so they killed him. They nailed him to a cross and left him there to die. They got rid of the problem so they could get back to life on their own terms. But they forgot one important truth. They forgot the truth that all life has been created on God’s terms, not on theirs, not on ours, not on society’s, not on the government’s. — but on God’s terms.
Only a few remained at a distance that day when the sky turned black and the sun turned blood red. Only a few weary women stood nearby, looking up at him, daring to believe, risking their lives in the face of irrefutable evidence, hoping against hope that this was not the end, that a change would occur, that something, something would happen to make the world understand, to make the world see who he really is.
These weary ones would watch as they took his lifeless body down. They would follow as they took him to a borrowed tomb. They would be present as his body was laid to rest and a giant stone rolled in place permanently sealing the only way in and the only way out. They would walk away that night, with tears in their eyes, they would walk away still wanting to believe but feeling as though the world they had hoped for had just ended. The world had moved from Palms to Passion in less than a week, and now the only truly innocent one the world had ever known was dead and sealed in a tomb. His true identity recognized only by a guarding centurion, and a few exhausted followers from a distance.
Life would never be the same for those weary followers. They had no idea what the future held for them. It was a time of overwhelming grief, yet a small spark of hope still lingered within them. A big change was on the way, but they weren’t there yet and neither are we.
The only way to Easter is to travel the journey from Palms to Passion. The only way we can truly come to faith in Jesus Christ is to travel through the darkness that is the death of God’s own innocent one.
The only way we will ever truly enjoy the grandeur of Easter is when we put to death our own gullibility and naivete that tells us we’re in charge, we’re in control, we have the power to maintain things as they are, we can create permanence.
Easter is coming and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
So, as we go from here today, we are challenged to spend the next week contemplating the everlasting permanent love of God. And thinking…Thinking and praying about those areas of our lives that need to change, those parts of our lives that hold us back from believing more fully, those ways of being that need to die — so that the people God wants us to be might be resurrected to new life come Easter morn.
Invitation to the Table
Change is coming. Just look — the parade of palms has already passed us by.
Darkness and despair loom over the events of the week ahead. Tragedy and loss bleed from the day we call Good Friday. We are naked, cold, and shivering and there is absolute silence in the universe
Yet there is Hope. Change IS coming.
There is Hope at this Table. There is Hope contained within these elements of Bread and Wine. There is Hope in the presence of our Lord and the promise of life from death.
Even in midst of our greatest moments of darkness and despair, even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, even in the midst of grief and disillusionment. This meal is given to us that we might have Hope, that we might celebrate.
All are welcome here, for this a Table set for the broken, the broken hearted, the broken in sprit, the broken in body. No one will be sent away hungry or thirsty.
This Table transcends all human boundaries and re-gathers us in the heavenly realm.
At this Table we are one with our Lord.
There are no denominations,
no racial differences,
no ethnic distinctions,
no male or female,
no young or old,
but all are one in Hope and Promise at the Table of our Lord.
Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2012, Jeffrey K. London. Used by permission.