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.


  1. Dave, given the examples that you provided, I'm going to challenge this a little bit :) (Of course! As is my nature.) Do you mean that you are uncomfortable with change? Or uncertainty? Or leaving/endings? Or absences? Or disjuncture? Or some other word that I'm not typing here because I'm scarfing lunch right now and don't have time to grab my thesaurus?

    I say that because the word "CHANGE", this catch-all word, often gets a bad rap. As I teach in a graduate program with the word "Change" in the title, I'm really conscious of the negative connotations. However, anything that is different now then it was then or will be different in the future than it is now can be considered "change". So, meeting the love of you life is change. Taking a class that you enjoy and learning something new is change. Being given a compliment that adjusts how you perceive your value in the world is change.

    Now you have me curious to try and figure out the better word for what we don't like when some changes occur....

    Best to you!

  2. Jeannie,
    I think that's what I'm grappling with. Change in my mind brings up these negative connotations when really most of the change in my adult life life has brought about good things...more of an evolution if that makes sense. Change is constant; it's just the confluence of change that is causing this perfect storm. I don't like what I think change means, but really I'm finding out it doesn't mean what I think it did at all. More ramblings than coherent thoughts but, yes, I think change does get a bad rap.

  3. So, unpack that word and you may discover what is really unsettling about all of these new things. Omit the word "change" from your blog post (just for fun) and try to figure out what word you could replace it with. That will help to clarify things for you.

    For example:

    "I'm moving to a new city, working at a new church, starting a new school - a whole big ball of [NEW WORD]. On some days, I picture this [NEW WORD] 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."

    Alternatives: uncertainty, endings/beginnings, unpredictability, risk, mystery,unfamiliarity, etc.

    Does that make sense? Change is just such an imperfect word, too general to really pin down specifics and be useful...