Upside Down: “Change”

Upside Down: “Change”
A Message on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
March 11, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NRSV)


So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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Let’s start out today by doing a little social experiment of sorts. How many of you are sitting in the same spot in the same pew that you always sit in? Raise your hand. (Now be sure to tell the truth and shame the devil.)


Raise your hand if you eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. Listen to the same radio station in your vehicle? Watch the same shows on TV? Put your socks and shows on in the same order and way?


We humans are creatures of habit, are we not? For some reason we like routines, doing the same thing in the same way at the same times day after day after day. We find comfort in our routines. We like routines. We don’t like change.


Here, let’s try something else. Cross your arms. Just cross your arms like this (show). Okay, now reverse which arm is on top. Just switch them out. How does it feel? Awkward? Uncomfortable?


We are also uncomfortable when it comes to changes in matters of faith as well, aren’t we?


I’ve talked before about in a previous church I served how upset some people got over which shade of white to paint the inside of the sanctuary. Not what color. Everyone agreed to paint it white, which was the color of the old paint. No, the issue of conflict was which shade of white to paint it. (And ironically there was very, very little difference between the shades.)


We even want our worship to stay the same and never change. We want to sing only the hymns we know, with the same instrumentation we are familiar with.


Let me read you some comments about worship music. See if any of this strikes a chord (pun intended) in you.


“I am no music scholar, but I feel I know appropriate church music when I hear it. Last Sunday’s new hymn – if you can call it that – sounded like a sentimental love ballad one would expect to hear crooned in a [bar]. If you insist on exposing us to rubbish like this – in God’s house! – don’t be surprised if many of the faithful look for a new place to worship. The hymns we grew up with are all we need.”


Sound familiar? Here’s the thing, though. This was from a letter written by a church member in 1863. And the “new hymn” they were referring to? “Just As I Am.”


Why are we so resistant to change in the church? I have a theory. Now this is just my own armchair psychology that comes from my own 13 years of experience as a minister.


The world is full of change. As we age things change. Our bodies change, usually not for the better. Relationships change and can become stressed or estranged. Financial matters change. We experience the change of loved ones dying. Jobs and careers change.


With so much change in the world we look for something that doesn’t change. We want to anchor to something that doesn’t change, and we look to the church to be that anchor. We want just one thing to hang on to with all our might in the midst of all of life’s changes, and we want the church to be that one thing.


Now to be clear the message of the church doesn’t change. Or it shouldn’t. But the church does change. We don’t chant the psalters. We don’t conduct the service in Latin. We use musical instruments.


Last night I was blessed to drive the People Mover to Bossier City, La. for a concert titled, “Winter Jam.” It had many bands and musicians perform and the place was packed! I checked online this morning and the capacity of that place is 14,000 people. Here’s a photo.


Now the music was loud. Very loud. There were lights and fog machines and even fireworks. The music was varied from semi-traditional hymns to rap to rock to hard rock. Most of you hear probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it.


So was it worship? Can you have worship with all those things? Absolutely! And the young folks loved it! And I can tell you it is impressive to be among 14,000 people singing praises to God and proclaiming Jesus as savior. It will give you Holy Spirit goosebumps, I guarantee.


The message of the church doesn’t change. But the church does change.  The young folks at the concert last night saw this: (show photo). The cross. The symbol of change.


The Bible contains so many true stories of change.


Noah was told there was going to be a flood and to build a huge boat, even though the sun was shining and it was dry at the time.


Moses encountered God at the burning bush and went from being a shepherd out in the boonies to representing God’s people before Pharaoh, the most powerful person in the entire region.


David, also a shepherd, bravely gave Goliath a splitting headache when he was still a youth and went on to become a king.


Ruth experienced change when her husband and his brothers and their father all died, and yet she went with her mother-in-law Naomi to a land foreign to Ruth to help her out.


Jacob was obedient to God which resulted in traveling to foreign lands, leaving behind the comfort and security of home.


Esther went from being a mild-mannered Jewish girl to being the queen and putting her life on the line in order to save her people.


Four of the disciples, James, John, Andrew, and Peter, walked away from being fishermen to become followers of Jesus.


And Paul! Oh we cannot forget about Paul. He went from being a high and mighty church leader with a reputation for persecuting the followers of Jesus to being one of the great leaders of the church, suffering greatly in doing so.


Knowing Paul’s background make what he wrote in the scripture we read today even more significant: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”


When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior then we experience change. It’s a change for the good, no doubt about that, but yet it still is change… And it can be scary.


We change because we no longer put ourselves number one on our priority list. We put God and serving him as number one.


We change because we resist the wooings of this world and place priority on the things of heaven instead of the things of earth. (That’s what this series, “Upside Down,” is all about.)


We change because following Christ forces us out of our comfort zones as we seek to live out lives that bring the Kingdom of God to the earth, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”


Even though as humans we resist change, as followers of Christ we are changed. We change. And we are the change.


The message of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection never changes. The way it is communicated does change, and has changed throughout the history of the church.


So my challenge to you this week is to be the change. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to make other disciples. Are you willing to change if it means bringing others to Christ? Are you willing to go through the awkwardness of change in order to introduce a hurting world the salvation found only in Jesus Christ?


Years ago Steven Curtis Chapman recorded a song titled, “The Change.” Part of the lyrics are:


What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change yeah
I’m undergoing the change


You are a new creation through Christ. Don’t keep it to yourself. Be the change.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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