…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…. When Martin Luther King, Jr gave his “Mountain Top” some say it’s message was prophetic. Perhaps there is some prophecy, but I also hear hope, encouragement and a sense of peace as well. It’s the peace that comes after the challenge of a long journey. From his first movement in Montgomery 1955, to his last ending in Memphis, 1968, King Jr. could see that much had changed across the nation in those 13 years, but not before many had died. He himself had changed but not before realizing that “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” As dark as those times were, the nation was responding in ways it hadn’t responded before King took on the challenge to climb that mountain called injustice and segregation to name a few. When he reached his top, his message was to give us hope and encouragement. God gives us the privilege to go up the mountain. We only have to be willing to take the climb.
When we see something of great value we want it as quickly as we can get it. Usually however, we don’t consider something to be of value until we’ve had some positive experience with it. What would make the disciples drop everything immediately and follow Jesus without having had some experience with him? What would make a person with an unclean spirit speak against Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue? Three words come to mind; change, difference and circumstance. First, nobody really likes change. We like the comfort of familiarity until of course it becomes uncomfortable. Yet anything connected to God is constantly changing. Second, God created difference. Our gifts are many and varied, designed to be used for the good of the community of believers. Third, our circumstances have a lot to do with how we respond to change and difference. If we remember that God’s love is greater than our circumstances, we can learn to value the change and accept the difference in every moment of our lives, as we drop those unhealthy spirits and follow the Spirit in the promise of God’s Word.
May God give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power (Ephesians 1:15-23).
There are some tyrannies against the self, that we don’t always readily recognize; such as change, time and place. We constantly think that things and people need to change, that time can be managed and that if we don’t find what we are looking for we are ready to be some place else. These are illusions which keep us running and confused much of the time. Trying to change what is fully external to the self is tiring. Changing the interior self is hard enough but far more rewarding. It gives us permission to free ourselves from the obsession of trying to change things and or people more confused than we are. So too time can not be managed. Another illusion – for an hour is an hour and we must learn to manage ourselves realistically within the time that is given. We can only do the best we can with the time we have. Again, we often fail to appreciate the gift of place, where we are at any given moment, but more importantly where we call home. I’ve come to believe that it is the Spirit of God within us that sanctifies the place and not the other way around. When Jesus entered the synagogue and found a person who had the spirit of an unclean demon (Luke 4:31-37), he didn’t leave and start looking for another synagogue. Anointed by the Spirit we too have the freedom to remain where we are and not be moved until the Spirit of God’s presence within us provides another place.
As for you, always be sober (not drunk, serious, sensible, solemn), endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:5-13
Since I can remember, for a long time, I’ve been guided by my emotions. In some situations it’s been very good and in others very destructive. It is quite possible I believe, to be drunk with strong feelings, to respond emotionally in ways that either create change on one hand and/or chaos on the other. The solemnity of our faith is not to be without emotion but rather to be able to distinguish the influence our emotions can have in creating that change and/or chaos. Various groups have adopted the serenity prayer in modified versions. I think today’s scripture warrants our attention to this original and untitled serenity prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943.
- God, give me grace to accept with serenity
- the things that cannot be changed,
- Courage to change the things
- which should be changed,
- and the Wisdom to distinguish
- the one from the other.
- Living one day at a time,
- Enjoying one moment at a time,
- Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
- Taking, as Jesus did,
- This sinful world as it is,
- Not as I would have it,
- Trusting that You will make all things right,
- If I surrender to Your will,
- So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
- And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
John 12:20-26 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
It’s no mystery that there are times when something has to die in order for something different to emerge. By the same token, whether we like it or not, our birth creates change for someone or some situation. Yet throughout life we resist change for various reasons, but they all fall under one category, fear. We are afraid that we are going to lose something or that we will inherit something of which we are uncertain that we want. Of course I am not solely referring to physical death, but also things that simply need to end. This includes the things we want in our relationships. Jesus knew that his (physical) end was inevitable. He understood that with the separation of his body from the relationship he had with his disciples, was the expectation of the glorification of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit for all who believed. What might we be holding on to in our relationships that is keeping us or the other person from blossoming into the person God has called us to be or simply experiencing something greater that God has intended? How do we know when it is time to change? Perhaps when we begin to ask these questions is the beginning of knowing when change needs to take place.
Job 42:1-2 Then Job answered the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.