Minister’s Forum: Everything old is new again
One of the characteristics of living in an environment like Tahoe that I really enjoy is the change of seasons: I’m looking out my library window to a small grove of aspens that, almost before my eyes, has come into full leaf.
There’s something comfortably predictable about the seasonal changes all around us. We anticipate and celebrate these transitions. As I get back into the hiking and bicycling (a la Bike to Work Week), I’m also aware of changes that come with the aging process, and the sometimes-painful discovery that this body is showing definite signs of the mileage. It won’t go quite as fast or as far. It takes longer to warm up and longer to recover. It’s getting hard to watch those “grab-for-the-gusto” commercials without feeling like I probably couldn’t see clearly enough to find the handle. I am humbled now at my teenage incredulity over “someday” being as old as my parents.
God uses the effects of change as an ever-present reminder of our mortality, and motivation to look to him who changes not and has promised us an eternal life. If I didn’t have the confidence that each day brings me just that much closer to laying aside this increasingly limited body and seeing my Lord face-to-face, this aging stuff would be downright depressing.
God also uses changes to help lead us to change. The older I get, the more I see the truth spoken to us through the Bible that God allows pain, failures, suffering and aging to help us remain focused on him and to prepare us for eternal life.
I also am increasingly aware of two competing forces in my life. The first is the growing urgency of the Kingdom of God, and my participation in it today. The second is the power and influence that “things” – what Jesus refers to as “mammon,” or wealth – has in my life, especially its power to distract me from my objective. I am conscious of the struggle that the writer of Hebrews so beautifully characterizes in Chapter 12:1-2: “Let us lay aside every weight that hinders and the sin which clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Our hearts have room only for one all-embracing devotion, and we can only cleave to one Lord.” The issue is idolatry, which is alive and well today, and we need to make some changes. Either we choose the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ and calls us into his service, or we yield to our greed and self-indulgence and serve the god Mammon. Both can be very religious. Jesus speaks about our wealth more than any other subject besides the Kingdom of God, so our difficulty is not about understanding what Jesus is saying – it’s dealing with the fear we experience when Jesus talks the way he often does about our precious treasures. Change often is scary, but the more we set our hearts on Jesus and his kingdom, the more we realize the powerful grip our possessions and our riches have on us, and the easier it becomes to make the changes and work with the changes God is leading us in.
Since starting this little article, the aspens are showing even more change, becoming as God created them. As life is changing all around us, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, and welcome his call to change. And please pass me the Ben-Gay.
– Steven Blocher is pastor at Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church.