Change is never easy, at times it is out right difficult and sad. We often become creatures of habit and grow comfortable in the place where we are. We have a set of expectations and ideals and we don’t like when things don’t line up around us the way we want or expect. But as President John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who only look in the past and present will miss the future”
We’ve all been through seasons of change, whether it be in a church, or in our personal lives with our family or career. Even though change is swirling around us, all the time we have one constant that we can always rely on and that is God. The book of Hebrews tells us “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Malachai 3:6 “I the Lord do not change.” So no matter what may happen, God is unchanging. Make no mistake about it, just because he doesn’t change it doesn’t mean he doesn’t move. While the character of God remains the same, that is his power, love, compassion, mercy, morals, wisdom and strength, he moves in mighty ways and he works in and through his church to accomplish his will.
Here are a few examples of the way in which God moves in and through his people.
Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
And my favorite, Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
We can count on the fact that while God’s character does not change nor does his word or promises change, he is still at work in and through his people. He wants to use this church to reach the lost. He wants to continue to build up and use the church to reach those who do not know him.
Belonging to the body of Christ and participating in a church family and is one of the most important things you can do in your walk with God. It is God’s desire to have a deep relationship with you and to nurture you, guide you, teach you and protect you. In both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels Jesus is quoted as expressing his desire to gather his people up like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. If you go back even farther you see God’s desire to be in relationship with his creation from the beginning as he spent time with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately that relationship was broken when Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit but because of God’s love for his creation and desire to have a relationship with them, he had a plan for reconciliation. We find that plan all throughout the entire Bible and specifically in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Being part of the church, being part of the family of God, is like being those baby chicks under the wings of the mother hen. We find a home, protection, friendship, love and the ability to mature in a safe place. It’s true, not everything or everyone is perfect in a church but despite those imperfections the Perfect One, that is God, remains faithful and steadfast and is strong enough to overcome our weaknesses.
Our weaknesses sometimes gets in the way of what God wants us to do though, don’t they. This time of year, at least in liturgical churches, we look at the baptism of Jesus. It is kind of puzzling why Jesus was baptized and we can sympathize with John about why he was confused when Jesus approached him. Many theologians and Bible commentators have attempted to answer why Jesus, a sinless man, God in the flesh got baptized. William Barclay says that Jesus takes this opportunity to show everyone, including the Jews, their need for repentance. So even though he didn’t need to be baptized he’s setting the example. Frank Maccia a modern day Pentecostal theologian says that Jesus was baptized so the Holy Spirit would descend upon him, filling him, and in turn he’d be able to impart the Spirit on all of mankind. Jesus is the channel that brings the Spirit from God to man. Both of these are good ideas and there are others but no matter what explanation you ascribe to the fact is that Jesus was baptized.
Now we sometimes think it interesting that John protested when Jesus asked him to baptize him. But if you think about it, Peter protests when Jesus tells him he is going to wash his feet. Moses protested when God told him to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of his people. Jonah protested when God called him. Isaiah, Sarah, Thomas and many others all protested or made excuses about why they couldn’t do what God called them to do. So perhaps there’s some lessons here for all of us. Specifically, lessons regarding our participation in the family of God and our call to ministry. Sometimes we allow our weakness and insecurity to get in the way. Sometimes we allow our expectations to get in the way. Perhaps our inability to understand what God is doing makes it hard to respond to his call. Or worse, we allow our pride and judgement of others to get in the way of what God is calling us to do.
John protested when Jesus asked to be baptized because he let insecurity and his inability to understand God get in his way. He was face to face with the one who he had been proclaiming was coming and when asked to do something, his first response was ‘no’. It is scary to think about how many times I have said no to God. Now, obviously Jesus has never walked up and said “Hey, Meaghan…could you baptize me”. But I shudder to think of all the missed opportunities I may have had to share the Gospel or all the times I let tiredness or weakness get in the way of ministry. How I allow insecurity or my past mistakes dictate who I am today. I am going to guess that you can relate with John and me. The truth is, we are all called into God’s family for a reason. We all play a part in the church to build each other up and to also go out into the world around us and minister to others. The church is Christ’s body, and each person are members of that body and act as his hands and feet in this world. In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
We all have different roles to play, each one of us is important. Not everyone is called to lead a worship service or play an instrument, but your participation in services and prayer for for one another is vital. Not only that, taking what you learn and experience through study and worship in church, out into the community is so important and so necessary for not only the growth of God’s family in this world.