Sunday, August 07, 2016

Change: The Only Constant

Change: The Only Constant

It is time now for us to prepare for yet another change. Your vestry has called a new priest to join you in your pilgrimage toward the Kingdom of God. In two short weeks, Brian Raiche will become your Priest in Charge and he and I will share worship responsibilities and I shall hand the keys of the parish over to your Senior Warden who will, in turn, hand them over to your new priest. 

We are in the process of change once again. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reputed to have said so long ago; “Embrace change, for change is the only constant.” 

Our lives are in constant flux. Yet, in the few months I have been with you since May, I hope I have provided some measure of stability to this wonderful congregation.

Many exciting possibilities are in store for you now. The fall season is upon you. Sunday school will be resuming before you know it. Even now, Brian Raiche is fixing up the office in order to prepare himself for assuming his responsibilities as your Priest in Charge. How exciting for you!

And I will be preparing to retire for yet a sixth time. As I prepare for that “retirement”, I will also need to prepare to make a presentation at the annual convention of the Diocese of Montana where I have been invited to speak on the matter of congregational development and evangelism. And following that, God willing, Cindy and I will fly to Florida to celebrate the marriage of our second son Joshua! Talk about excitement. Talk about change!

This pilgrimage we call life is full of its blessings and its challenges. Congregations in Montana are looking to grow. Joshua and his bride to be are looking toward a new chapter in their lives together. 

The Pilgrimage continues. 

In the midst of all these changes Jesus greets us with these words in today’s Gospel; “Don’t be afraid, little flock for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom”. Jesus calls us to be alert and to make purses for ourselves that do not wear out but prepare us for the Kingdom of God. 

What might that be? What does the Kingdom look like anyway? How do we prepare ourselves for such a thing? In building churches it requires loving our neighbors. And our neighbors include more than those who belong to the church. Vital and viable congregations have a clear sense of mission organized around the needs of their neighborhoods. Growing congregations have a clear vision of how to become more intentionally inclusive of new and prospective members. Faith becomes a part of the stories we tell to one another. Increasingly, we become more and more comfortable in sharing those stories among ourselves, our loved ones and eventually even perfect strangers. You are ready, you are alert to a whole new chapter in your pilgrimage as a congregation. 

In today’s Epistle, Paul says; “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Though not seen, faith is clear. Obedience to God makes possible those things we once thought impossible. Even in our marriages, as it was for Abraham and Sarah, so it is for us. God made it possible for them to have children even in their old age when the two of them were clearly “past it”. Still God counted it as righteousness when Abraham and Sarah believed. So too for us, as we believe and as we love one another the way God would have us love one another.  We learn to forgive and reconcile one another in moments of impossible challenge, God again makes the impossible possible. 

Even in the midst of our broken promises, God’s promises remain true. Many are broken by divorce, betrayal, disappointment, and yet God never gives up on us. God’s makes the impossible possible once again. God redeems all our days through the love God always bears toward us. 

As for the Church of the Good Shepherd. I rejoice with you in this new moment of change in your life. You will soon have a new priest, a new parish administrator and a new organist/ choir director. This is a very exciting time for you and in it God is showing you toward the Kingdom of heaven.

Yesterday the wider Church celebrated the feast day of the Transfiguration. On the Holy mountain the disciples saw Moses, Elijah and Jesus standing together, as the story goes. Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets now find themselves succeeded by Jesus who is the Love of God made flesh and blood. Into the cloud Jesus and the disciples are taken up, God spoke and said: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” 

Therefore in whatever set of changes we find ourselves we are called to be for others who Jesus was and is to us; namely the love of God made flesh and blood.

To make God’s love visible is to make Heaven visible to ourselves and to others. This is our faith; “the assurance of things hoped for” and “the conviction of things not seen”. Understand, that Heaven is not seen and yet is made clearly visible by this kind of Love.

This is what makes change necessary. God is not looking for religious ceremony or “sacrifices” alone, and says as much through the Prophet Isaiah in today’s first lesson. What matters more to God are the injustices, the poor and the oppression.
Therefore, the prophet says in today's First Lesson;
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.”

The sacred ministry of the church is ever evolving toward the kingdom of heaven. These are the "changes" God seeks.

Now that you and your new priest are preparing to come together you can work out the particulars of how God wants you to put the love of God into the flesh and blood of your common life. 

It is this mission that makes our Pilgrimage so exciting and so fulfilling. That which was only an unseen hope now becomes so vividly clear.

You and Brian Raiche have been called to journey on in your Pilgrimage toward heaven. Do remember him in your prayers, as he remembers you in his. It is an exciting time. It is a hopeful time. Faith makes the impossible possible. Faith makes the invisible visible. 

We find ourselves set in a world that often fails to see that in the seas of constant change faith is our anchor. Just this week I came across these lines from the tradition of Celtic Spirituality. I find in the imagery of these lines a reminder that God is at the very heart of every human soul.  
Francis J. Roberts writes; 
"Many a ship has sailed from port to port
with no interference from Me,
because Strong Will has been at the wheel.
Multitudes of pleasure cruises
go merrily on their ways,
untouched by the power of My hand.
But you have put your life into My keeping,
and because you are
depending on Me for guidance and direction,
I shall give it.
Move on steadily,
and know that the waters that carry you
are the waters of My love and My kindness,
and I will keep you on the right course."
~Frances J. Roberts, Celtic Daily Prayer

In the Name of God the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen

Fr Paul

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