He Knew the Process of Change!
By Rev. Louis Stoker
Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church
A man approached the sales counter of an auto-parts store. "Excuse me," he said, "I'd like to get a new gas cap for my Yugo." "Sure," the clerk replied, "Sounds like a fair exchange to me."
One of the amazing aspects of the Bible is its honesty. The sordid events of human experience are included along with the positive encounters. Human failure and human triumph comprise the environment for God's revelation. The guilty and the guiltless find their way into the pages of this chronicle of God.
In preliterate and simply-structured societies, religion played a unifying role in life. The village was a self-contained society in which all rituals and symbols were religious ones. "The Religious" was not relegated to one aspect or activity of life, distinct from the other aspects. Speaking of the religious and the nonreligious or secular as two different dimensions of life would have been foreign to this society.
To live at all was to live within a religious community with clearly defined rites of passage on the "journey home." Every major event in life, from pregnancy and childbirth to the cutting of the first tooth, puberty, the first haircut, marriage, and vocation carried religious rites of passage like clear signposts along one's ultimate journey.
We moderns find ourselves in a much different world, and we often find ourselves unable to let go of our need to be in charge in spite of the vastness of our "world view." We many times find it difficult to allow God to bring to us the gifts God wants to give.
The late L.D. Johnson used to contend that one of the bizarre facts of life is that the more religious people become, the less patient and comfortable they become with the mystery and freedom of God.
Those who consider themselves very religious tend to point their fingers at others and claim that God is this or that. The freedom of God is the very heart of all religion. One would think that the closer one got to God, the more overwhelmed one would be by the awesomeness and indescribable nature of God. One might think that the closer one got to God, the less clear-cut would be a personal expression of God.
Jesus comes so close in our day, saying so many changing elements of God. In his day he washed the disciples feet with water. Whether it was the dry, caked feet or his desire to show his gentleness, he definitely brought a new image to life.
Certainly this was out of sync; disciples washed their Master's feet, but not to Jesus. He wanted them to know that the task of his church would be service and servanthood. Then he gave suppers with bread and wine to show that his new life was a sisterhood and brotherhood, and this, too, is most shocking. Banquets are given in honor of great people; great people do not give banquets for the poor. Jesus also touched people with his handswhether they were lepers, diseased, or dead, like Lazarus. He touched people society would not touch. What a reverse image projection!
William Barclay, the great New Testament scholar, lost his daughter and son-in-law in an automobile accident. An individual wrote to him, anonymously, of course, and said, "I know why God took your daughter. It was to save her from your heresy." Barclay wrote, "If I could have spoken to that person, I would have said, 'Your god is my devil.'"
So is God a God who sends tornadoes upon entire cities, levy's punishments on unknowing bystanders, is a destroyer of homes, killer of innocent children for a decision with which they had nothing to do?
God, through Jesus Christ, proceeds to change the concepts of men through the medium of love, kindness, graciousness, and joy.
Christians ought to proceed to faith as the Apostle Paul suggests, "in fear and trembling." The Jesus whom we know is the great
"changer" of procedures.
Some years ago there was a sign in a store window: "Any faulty merchandise will be cheerfully replaced with merchandise of equal
quality." Changes from world-views are necessities for those who follow the Christ!