CHANGES: What are you waiting for?

ISAIAH 43: 18-25
MARK 2: 1-12

February 21, 2021

If any of us ever doubted whether we could adapt to changes or even change ourselves … this past year has truly proven to be a validation that the human condition is adaptable and capable of morphing and adjusting into realities that 12 months ago on February 21st we could never have imagined possible.

In these times we live in, we are lining up anxiously for our opportunities to get a vaccination … along with every other person in the world … perhaps change has also again proven that all too many individuals lack patience or civility in their language since so many of us want to be first in line when the line has millions of others in it along with us.  Change has also defined who we are. One woman I know, a former State Police Trooper in her mid-sixties, told me she is waiting until others get their vaccinations because God has blessed her so she does not have to take another person’s place in line. She’s going to just be safe.  While untold others have complained directly to me that for some reason they haven’t passed by millions in order to get the needle in their arms that they deserve to have ahead of others.  I say this as someone who has had both shots because of my job but I also have a daughter named Megan who is on a kidney wait list and has yet to have her shots even scheduled.

For the most part, we have learned to mask up and even double mask at times to protect others from what might be lurking silently within our own bodies. A showcase of love of our neighbors as well as wisdom rather than a selfishness where we insist that we must be displaying our faces to the world while allowing our breath to potentially kill those who come close to us.  We have usually successfully socially distanced and I have yet to see anyone  pushing to get closer to the cashiers in our grocery lines.

Good morning again friends … I am here to state a reality that perhaps in the past we have neglected to accept but CHANGE is always going to come …. The status quo is a moment in time that is constantly being swept aside by events both within our control as well as those  outside realities that we can not even slow down.   We get new information and have new experiences … CHANGE is always occurring even in these moments change is possible.

On this first Sunday in the Lenten Season of 2021 we are here to connect with God and amongst the good news I have today is the fact that you and I can effectuate positive changes in our relationship with God.  We can truly choose to make following Jesus a priority and allow Him to function as our personal Savior and Lord.  And, finally … God’s Holy Spirit is ready to become part of who we are; if we allow the Spirit in.  CHANGES worth an eternity connected with God … CHANGES that can only bring positivity, joy, and yes SALVATION to others … so these CHANGES in our faith walks should always be happening … growth and connection.  Getting closer to Jesus as Paul would say. The real question for this season of LENT is ‘WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?”

The Worship team once again put up with my musings as the words of David Bowie’s song CHANGES kept pushing at me as I considered the message for this morning.  They seemed so fitting for the first Sunday of Lent … the first complete season of repentance on the Christian calendar … since the beginning of the global pandemic of the Coronavirus.  Our Christian ancestors determined that we need a 40 day period of reconciliation with God … we need to regain our focus each year … we need to approach the holiest of Holy weeks with a desire to be God’s people once again; not dreaming of chocolates that we have put aside but instead sensing who we are called to be …. Ready and willing to change for the sake of God … and our faith … and of the lives we come across in our journey.

Turn and face the strange CH CH CHANGES.  There’s gonna be a different man.  Time may change me but I can’t trace time.”

We heard the legal experts reaction to Jesus as He healed the paralyzed man.  How many of us were fortunate enough to have parents who brought us to Sunday School … whose faith walk valued having their children discovering God every week? Was today’s Gospel lesson one you cherished in your Sunday School days? It was for me? Do your special Vacation Bible School experiences include this story in your memories?

Four individuals who had heard about Jesus carried their paralyzed friend to Capernaum.  We don’t know how long the journey was but they didn’t have a motorized wheelchair … they didn’t have a car … the crowds around Jesus were large and these four individuals carried in their loving and caring arms their friend who they knew needed Jesus Christ … born in a manger to Mary … the one the shepherds were willing to change from mere managers of their livestock into men sharing the Good News … Jesus was already known for His love … for God’s healing through Him … and these friends even tore the roof off of the house so that they could lower their friend with love so he could be face-to-face with Jesus Christ.

Friends, what would you do for a friend who needed Jesus this morning?  Would you carry him or her in your arms so that he or she could experience God’s love and healing?  Would you invite them to worship online from wherever they live?  To celebrate Holy Communion on Wednesday mornings?   To have their children participate in our One Room Zoomed Sunday School classroom?

Friends … if you acknowledge and celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ on the same day presents were under that carefully decorated tree in your home back in December have you changed to being a person like those shepherds? Luke recorded for all of us what happened, “When the shepherds saw Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger they reported EVERYTHING about the child … friends, those hard working, worn out, and  sweaty shepherds shared EVERYTHING they had heard about and seen in Jesus; Scripture tells us that in Luke’s history … they shared the GOOD NEWS of JESUS CHRIST and here’s what he wrote, “EVERYONE was amazed at what the shepherds had told them.  The shepherds returned home glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen!”

How often do we … do you … GLORIFY and PRAISE GOD for all that we have heard about Jesus?  For what we have seen God do?  It’s the season of Repentance … it’s the season of our being silent to hear God … it’s our time to get reacquainted with our Savior … Yes, it’s time to be still and fully understand that God is still God not some human or human creation whose name people want to bow down to even in this 21st century. It is time for change in our faith walk.

What are the changes you need to make for your walk with God?  Perhaps carving out 10 minutes of reading time to open the Gospels perhaps?  To find a quiet place where it is only you and God with no one else bothering you and no cell phone buzzing or chiming or tempting you to look to the screen rather than the Holy.  Do you know God is calling you to be active yet you are passive?  CHANGES what are you waiting for?

As the paralyzed man was lowered down from the roof … so carefully … balanced by his four friends so he didn’t crash to the ground … can you imagine the others in the room looking up?  Some had to be angry because those men and their paralyzed friend were stealing their Jesus moments … I am sure the home owner did not like seeing the roof of his  precious house being tossed every which way … but friends if you ever had a teacher demonstrate this lesson … if you ever drew the picture … if you have read this Gospel lesson repeatedly through the years … can you imagine the look on the paralyzed man’s face as he looked at Jesus.

You see in those moments transformation was happening change was more than the visible.  Jesus looked up at those four friends on the roof and saw their commitment to having their friend healed … He looked at the man whose body didn’t function but whose heart and mind were on the holy in that moment …

And, the very first thing Jesus did was to provide forgiveness.   A connection to eternity … SALVATION … Jesus once told Nicodemus that he “did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world could be saved through Him.”  We get wrapped up in condemnation and criticism but the Son of God is about salvation … Friends have your lives been changed so that your words, your actions, and your life’s focus is on Salvation?  On Jesus?  Or are you still waiting to be changed from being focused on judgment, which satisfies the world’s requirements ?  CHANGES are possible … what are you waiting for?

And, the Gospel of Mark tell us that Jesus saw the collective faith of these individuals.  “Jesus saw THEIR faith and he then turned to the paralytic and said “CHILD YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN!”  Don’t you think Jesus was smiling … don’t you think the DJ up in heaven was getting the party’s music started once again … a soul was saved .. salvation was real.

But the skeptics … the legalistic leaders focused on self not Jesus were quick to condemn the act of Christ … they said WHY DOES HE SPEAK THIS WAY?

You see … they had not been changed.  They were so focused on the rules that they were careful to repeat over and over again that they had become jaded and blind to the possibilities of God.  We never will find out if these experts … these critics … these judgmental so called experts ever found the way to God but Jesus gave an answer we need to remember today on this day when change in our lives; change in our family members’ lives, change in the lives of people we know, and yes change in the world is still possible:

Jesus said, “Which is easier to say to a paralyzed person … “your sins are forgiven or get up and take your bed and walk?”   Then Jesus said, “So you will know that I have authority to forgive sins … he said to the man who was filled with faith but still paralyzed … GET UP TAKE YOUR MAT and GO HOME.”  And he did …

So are you full of faith this morning but still paralyzed on the ground doing nothing that establishes that the saving power of Jesus had any meaning to you?  Are you ready to change …. Are you allowing the past to bring you down?  We heard Isaiah this morning teach us, “Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history.”

The prophet continues for those who need to understand God’s purpose in sharing what God’s message is … “I am the One, the Lord declares, who wipes out your rebellious behavior for my sake.  I won’t remember your sin.”

And, so I return to the rock n roll lyrics of David Bowie.  The lessons of a poet but a reminder of who we are.  Bowie shares, “I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream. Of warm impermanence and so the days float through my eyes.  But the says seem the same.”  He continues, “Pretty soon you’re gonna get older … time may change me but I can’t trace time.”

Friends … are you just watching the ripples in the stream or are you living your life for Jesus Christ and God?  Are you willing to carry those you know towards God’s healing power of love and salvation through Jesus.  It’s free to all … God forgives and forgets sin and just wants everyone home.  Truth is … we are all getting older time may change your faith walk but is it getting you closer to God … bringing new generations to know and love Jesus?

Charlie is going to sing Eric Clapton’s Change the World in a moment … my prayer for you today comes from the beginning lyrics, “If I could reach the stars I’d pull one down for you .  Shine it on my heart so you could see the truth.  That this love I have inside is everything it seems.”  I hope you have the same love for your neighbors and friends.

CHANGES … we are in the season of changing for God through repenting, silence and stillness to again live for our Savior and not the world.  Let that love grow and change the world!  AMEN

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