Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Changes: A Sermon of Sorts
So, this is kind of sermonic; get over it. I'm working on a sermon for Sunday and this is part of it that I really resonate with but won't be preaching about due to time considerations (and all ResCov attendees breathed a sigh of relief).
I don't like change. I find change to be difficult and not part of my natural composition as a human. I still have a 218 number (Northern Minnesota area code), a Minnesota license plate and driver's license, and an undying loyalty to all Minnesota sports teams (and the state in general). I used xanga as my blogging format well into 2009 (which is conservatively a good three years after I should have); I still use yahoo for some of my email accounts even though I judge others for the same luddite indiscretion; heck, if I had gotten drafted for World War II, I probably would have showed up on the Western front with a muzzleloader, dressed in Union blues, singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Again, I'm not great at change.
So, this fall I have huge changes coming up. I'm moving to a new city, working at a new church, starting a new school - a whole big ball of change. On some days, I picture this change all at once and want to go in my room, turn on the A/C, and rock in the fetal position for the rest of my life. On other days, I look over this vista of new opportunities, freedom, possibilities and think how lucky I am to experience it. For, if I look to the not-to-distant past, change has been pretty good to me. Change took me to Ecuador and brought me to Chicago and North Park, two places I never thought I would have lived and two places that have changed my worldview, my opinions, my general disposition. I don't want to "spit in the face of Time/That has transfigured me," as Yeats said. And looking back over these past 10 years (getting old!) gives me hope for the future, that change will continue to mold me into me, that change will work over the corners and smooth the rough edges that can develop when I become sedentary in body, mind, and soul.
This Sunday is both the eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (depending on which calendar you follow) and the feast of Mary Magdalene. I'm preaching this week and thought it would be interesting to look at Mary Magdalene instead of the usual Sunday texts. The Gospel text for the feast of Mary Magdalene tells of Mary's encounter with the risen Christ. She is the first person to see the Risen Christ, and when she sees him, she embraces him. Confusingly, Christ responds: "Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father." He seems to be saying, "Mary, get off me. I don't want you touching me," which seems kind of cold and Scandinavian for our Palestinian Savior. But I think Barbara Brown Taylor has it right when she interprets this as Mary wanting to keep Jesus as she knows him, in the here and now, in an eternal present of sorts. Taylor says, "He (Jesus) knows that we would rather keep him with us where we are than let him take us where he is going." How many times do we cling to half-truthed dogmas because an unknown future seems to scary? How many times does fear cause our fists to close on whatever is near in an almost reflexive reaction?
Now, I know it's not a perfect model for my life (I don't claim that Boston is somehow my messianic destiny, but I do think it's where I'm called), but I think fear makes me want to cling to what I know right now: my life, my church, my city, my friends, my views on politics, my view of God. I like it. It's become rather easy. Yet, maybe I'm being led to a new place, and my call is to loosen my tight grip on the past and present so I can move into a future. This is not to say we're all supposed to move every six years to spice things up; I think that is just as dangerous and can lead to us running from problems and circumstances, but as someone who feels called to a different place, I think it is accurate.
At least that's what I'm telling myself so I can stay out of the fetal position for one more day! So, not the usual blog post, but these are the things I'm pondering at the moment. Now, off to run at Helwig because it is way too hot to even think of running outside.