Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Thank God For Change

One of the side stories going on in my life these past few weeks/months has been the developing problems with my Dodge Ram pickup. After it's second major breakdown in two weeks, I needed a car, so I ended up borrowing my 93-year-old grandma's Buick LeSabre. Like an idiot, I didn't pull the satellite radio hookup out of the pickup, so I'm now driving a vehicle with a cassette player. No CDs. No satellite radio. Just run-of-the-mill radio and cassettes.

The problem is that most of my cassettes, um, make that all of my cassettes, are many years ancient. I gladly pulled out a dozen or so of my old favorites to play while driving around, and I packed them into the glove compartment. Each time I pulled out an old gem, I would check the recording date I had scribbled on each case. Then I would chuckle quietly to myself as I read. 1989. 1986. 1982!

Some of those tapes still hold up well, but others, well, not so well. But they took me back to a time long ago. When I was different.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds - I was a year or so out of college, working as a radio DJ. My friends and I were into the Texas-rock sound.

Restless Heart - I was about to get married, working as a country DJ for the first time in my life. I didn't even know much about country before I took the job playing it. One song reminded me of my days in high school, cruising the one-stoplight town, looking for ways to pass the time.

Shooting Star - Wow! Living in the college dorm, I was craving more music on a student's budget, so a dozen or so of us taped each other's albums to save us all a bunch of money. The album was frequently heard seeping out of the cracked doors of the dorm rooms on my floor.

Weird Al Yankovic - It's funny that I listened to Al back in the day, and now my boys are listening to him.

Twenty-five years of changes in me. Some good. Well, I guess most all of them are good. God has done a good work in me -- not that He's finished yet.

I know a woman who absolutely hates change. Maybe hates isn't the word. Maybe it's fear. But it manifests itself in hatred and dread. Somewhere in her mind, something tells her that any kind of change is bad -- even change which is supposed to make things better and easier. She seems to take comfort in the "sameness" of life.

There are many churches who are very litergical in nature. By that, I don't just mean "high church" but predictable church. Just carve the order of service into the wood on the altar, already. Only the hymns are rotated each week.

I know there are people who are comforted by that. The whole "God is always there" idea. But I'm not one of those people, and I don't really think we are called to be. Not that there's anything wrong with a constant order of service. It's just that God seems to use change so well.

In His earthly walk, Jesus wasn't all too predictable. Even the Twelve didn't understand where He was going and why. He talked to foreign women. He hung out with tax collectors. He chewed out the religious figures. He called a guy out of a tomb after four days. Las Vegas oddsmakers would have lost a bundle taking action on this Guy.

In my life, God has used the unlikely things of life to change me. The loss of a job. The loss of a son. Lonliness. Rejection. He's always pulling the silver lining from the dark cloud, even if all I can see is the storm that surrounds me. And in the change, He makes me better.

So why do so many people fight change, especially in the church? Could it be the familiar makes us comfortable enough that we don't think we need to take up our own cross every day? Do we honestly think that people are the same as they were 150 years ago? Sure, we're still sinners, but we dress differently, we act differently, we talk differently, and we communicate differently. Why wouldn't we worship differently?

I guess that maybe I'm just wondering how we as the church decide that our traditions are on a par with Scripture. Depending on who I'm talking to, I can hear people saying that a church isn't a proper church without:
  • altar calls
  • pews
  • hymns by Fanny Crosby
  • an organ
  • a choir
  • a Sunday evening service
Even some newer churches have taken their own liturgy and their own traditions and elevated them to "must-do" status. Frankly, I'm sick of the whole lot of it. I understand the thinking that goes into abandoning the church when I hear these modern-day Pharisees pass judgment. But I still don't agree with that thinking. The church is too precious to be left to those folks.

As I read the Bible, I keep reading about being transformed by the renewal of my mind, about being conformed to the image of Christ, about being sanctified. And I wonder again why we would fear change.

Some of my old attitudes just don't play anymore. Like the old Petra tape in the basement that's too tangled and twisted to fit into the tape deck, those old things don't work in me anymore.

Thank God for change.


Shelly said...

Happy New Year Ed!

I agree with you on change. Used to go to a liturgical church. Could probably still recite the whole service without batting an eye.

As hard as chance is sometimes, I love when God does the unexpected - good or bad - shaking my tree a little (or a lot every now and then.)

julie said...

Here's to an unpredictable new year!

Callmeteem said...

I for one know I need to change, even when it hurts.

rev-ed said...

Wow. I'm impressed people are still reading after my last three months of hit-or-miss blogging!

As I continue to consider all of this, I realize that I'm working a secular job where every day is different, a job where I work twice a month, plus the never-the-same responsibilites as pastor. Maybe I just live on change.