Written by Pastor Ed
Some Things Never Change
October 2, 2016
Lamentations 1: 1-6; 3: 19-26
II Timothy 1: 1-14
I enjoy puzzles, all kinds of puzzles both word puzzles as well as mechanical ones. For a period of time that seemed to be one of my Christmas presents, to see if I could be stumped by the next harder puzzle. I’ve put a few up here if you care to try.
I was reminded of this this week when I listened to a sermon given by a friend of mine down in Kansas. He cited an illustration using a Rubik’s Cube, one puzzle I couldn’t seem to find, and never quite solved either. If you recall, a Rubik’s Cube had all of these different coloured sides, and it looked really nice when each side was all one colour. But the sides could be twisted until all the colours were mixed up, and then you had to try and reconfigure the sides.
It is, said my friend John, a bit like life. We like things all nice and neat, but life isn’t usually that way. Life happens, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Life is often chaotic, full of the unexpected, and stressful. One minute you’re standing on a platform waiting for the next train, and the next minute the train plows into the barrier at the end of the line and your world turns to chaos.
A routine traffic stop suddenly turns violent and someone is shot. A car careens out of control and creates havoc on the street. A routine test turns up some unexpected results. Aging parents make demands we aren’t prepared for, ice causes a fall, dementia creeps up slowly. And that’s not to mention those bigger things that turn a person’s or a whole people’s worlds upside down. Bombs, war and attacks by missiles that you can’t see coming, epidemics of disease and environmental disasters. It’s not hard to come up with evidence that the world is literally “going to hell in a handbasket” to use a phrase.
But if we think that’s something new, we only have to read history, or the Bible, to discover that it’s not. The people who lived in Jerusalem around the year 587 B.C. were living a nightmare. For months their world had been turned upside down as the city was laid siege by the Babylonian army. While at first they could carry on with life somewhat normally, as time went on food supplies became scarce, disease began to run rampant, and life became miserable. And then the city fell, and things got even worse. Most of the able bodied people were carried off into exile, to Babylon and the city itself was laid to ruin, burned, sacked, leveled. “How lonely sits the city that once was full of people.” writes the author of Lamentations.
They thought it couldn’t happen. They had prophets who told them that God would never let Jerusalem fall, even though some, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel had warned them it was coming. But then who wants to listen to such doomsday speakers? The people were convinced that with the fall of Jerusalem, the future was bleak and God had abandoned them completely.
The apostle Paul might well have felt the same way as he sat in prison and wrote his letters. After all, he had received that special call on the road to Damascus, he had given his life to spreading the message of Jesus, he had established churches, travelled across the middle east region and was doing a lot of good, it seemed. So how had he ended up in prison? Why would this happen to him? Our lives, at times, look a lot like a mixed up Rubik’s Cube.
Yet, the key to a Rubik’s Cube is that there are some things that never change. For all the twisting and turning you can do, there are 6 squares that never change position, the centre one on each side. And ultimately, that is what both the writer of Lamentations and the Apostle Paul come to understand as well. And it is good for us to remember this simple truth when we are in the midst of life happening all around us.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3: 22-23)
“They are new every morning,” that is, they don’t diminish over time, they are fresh and ready to go each new day, even if we give out.
Paul says, “I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.” (II Tim. 1: 12)
Life may seem chaotic and unpredictable, but of this we can be sure. God remains faithful, even in the midst of what may seem like a disaster to us. And sometimes, quite frankly, we need those unpredictable things to happen to help us realize that truth. If our life stays nice and neat- as if that ever happens- it becomes all too easy to think that we have no need for anyone else, let alone God.
Today we celebrate world-wide communion Sunday, recognizing that the act we participate in today here has been re-enacted by people for the last two millennium and is being celebrated all over the world today. Many have already partaken, and others will follow. Today we stand in solidarity with Christians in China and the Far East, with Christians in Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iran and Iraq who are experiencing persecution, war and oppression. We celebrate communion today with our brothers and sisters in Colombia who are also celebrating a peace agreement that they hope will end the war that has been plaguing Colombia for more than 50 years.
We could go on and name many other places where the realities of life reflect the book of Lamentations much more than ours, and yet their faith affirms the steadfast love of the Lord, again and again. On Thursday I listened to MCC representatives who have just recently returned from the Middle East, and they spoke of the Christians in Iraq, Iran and Jordan. I’ve listened to Colombian Christians as they talked about the land they had to abandon as first one side and then the other overran their village.
That’s not to diminish the chaos and uncertainty we sometimes feel in our lives, but rather to affirm again and again that in all of life, no matter where we live or what our circumstances are, “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”
In the words of the hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness…”
As we share together at the Lord’s Table today, let us affirm anew our trust in the one who invites us to share together with all Christians in this symbol of our faith, and our assurance of God’s faithfulness as we remember the one who was faithful, even unto death, so that we might live in the assurance of that faith, and not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.