When Kate lit the Peace and Justice Candle she prayed for One World, One Peace, One People. What will it take for you and for me to make the changes necessary for acceptance, tolerance and inclusion to occur among all people?
What does this question bring up for you? Right now as you sit here in this place; Seekers Church, worship service. Just notice. What am I thinking? What will it take?
My topic today is really about: CHANGE
Can people change? Can I change? And is there a wall that stops all of us at one point or another? Or is truly anything possible? Do I believe that a mountain can be moved?
As that twelve year old little boy growing up with a Church of Christ mother and a workaholic truck driver father I got baptized because I believed it would bring about change in my life. It pleased my mother. Maybe it even pleased God.
As an eighteen year old little boy off to begin college I had a weekend encounter with Jesus. I changed my entire attitude about living, life and my purpose for going to college. I became aware of a spiritual well in my heart. I believed I could change and that I had changed. I was a renewed person. I wanted everyone around me to change to experience the freedom, joy, independence and satisfaction that was glowing in my being.
After starting my teaching career in Georgia in my mid twenties I packed up and moved to D.C. thinking that the Church of the Savior community would be a place where I could bring about change in myself as well as others.
So what about change. I have wrestled with it, doubted it, diminished it and I have worshipped it and I can say that I believe it happens. In fact, the only thing that is permanent is change.
The challenge I put before us today is to notice more about
- What am I changing in my life?
- What is it taking to make that change happen?
- What will it look like when it occurs?
Notice, I did not ask
- What do you want to change? Or
- Can you change?
..and when they laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison…But by midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
When pain hit my life it never occurred to me to pray and sing hymns to God. As my first marriage dissolved right before the eyes of me and others at the Dayspring Community I withdrew and left. I did what some would describe as “isolate in full view.” “I’m fine, no problem.”
In this Bible story, Paul and Silas must have been in pain and there response was to pray and sing hymns to God. Even more notable is the fact that the prisoners were listening to them.
Then the mysterious happened as it always does when we praise God for our difficulties.
The jailer took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized….and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all of his household.
When I allow people to hold my pain, wash my stripes not only am I comforted and supported they are also cleansed and refreshed. A type of baptism, if you will.
Earlier in the chapter, v.4,Jesus said, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do…v.6, I have manifested Your name to the [people] whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours. You gave them to Me…v.9, I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
v. 20, I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Holy One, are in Me and I in You….for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O Holy One, the world has not known You, but I have known You; and these [people] have known that You sent Me. V.26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them.
What does all this have to do with change? Two observations
- In the first example, pain only increases our desire to express joy and people will be watching, people are affected by how we respond to pain
People see me. In fact, they may even be ready, willing and able to offer their experience, strength and hope. Even though I am scared and afraid I pray and sing. Some would even if you don’t feel it “Act as if you do and the feelings will follow.”
- In the second example, the words are about a way of being. “You Holy One are in Me and I in you.” I accepted this path. It was a choice. It is a choice.
The foundation of my life begins to build. I am comforted that I was loved before the foundation of the world. Ok, well it doesn’t bring me that much comfort. But then I think about God in me and that I am given people to love. They belong to God but are shared with me.
I often think the verse in Galatians 2 which says, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.”
- I respond to pain with joy
- I live with Christ in me.
Randy Travis, from his CD Inspirational Journey, sings many songs which have inspired to continue making changes. This one, in particular, expresses the longing and questions of my heart.
Randy Travis, See Myself in You
For me this has been my life long challenge. In our reading from Revelations 22 it says, “Blessed are those who do [the] commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city…Whoever desires, let them take the water of life freely.
The gates of the city, in my case, is The Seekers Church, my AA community, my men’s group, the Yoga Center across the street, my 300 students at RHS and my family.
How and where do you enter the city where your desires can take you, freely, to the water of life?
I suggest that our entry points are determined by our perceptions, which are based upon our awareness. We make changes gradually and as needed to avoid pain and to live in a way that is satisfying. Actually I have come to appreciate that perceptions often are more powerful than facts.
I listen to myself and the Jesus talk sounds trite and disconnected from my real life. I started asking, What is the water of life? What would I want it to have in it. I realize now that what I want and need is power. I need power to make changes in my life. I simply cannot sing praises on my own when I am in pain. Plus my physical craving and attachments undermine me from accomplishing most changes that I want to make in my life.
As I keep affirming or choosing the way I want to live my life it is now clearer where my power comes from. In fact, I would say there are five sources. They are my faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight. As these deepen my attachments for wealth, fame, sex, fancy food and lots of sleep are reduced.
In the process, however, it is easy to walk through gates that lead to habits that restrict and limit my growing power to express God’s love.
I would like to notice with you some of habits of thinking, or maybe archetypes, if you will. Or better yet, I am going to suggest that we all have a Gremlin in our heads. The Gremlin is the narrator in your head. (S)he is with you twenty four hours a day and is always trying to influence your perceptions as realty. Unfortunately (s)he is not looking out for your best interest. In fact, I would say that my Gremlin is attached to my cravings which is dangerous.
The first step is to simply notice. As you begin to simply notice your gremlin, you will become acutely sensitive to the fact that you are not your gremlin, but rather, her/his observer. You will see clearly that your gremlin has no real hold on you. As this awareness develops, you will begin to appreciate and enjoy your life more and more.
Actually, the Gremlins have organized themselves and have developed at least nine typical profiles.
1. The general—you must live by the rules. You should, I should, should, should
2. The artist—always looking for a better way. If I just arrange my circumstances a little differently I will be happy.
3. The hulk
4. The big shot
5. coach don’t let up—you have to be number one, no excuses
6. reverend all dried up—I am so good and righteous that I am emotionally isolated and afraid of intimacy.
7. baba rub adub—spiritual materialism, like materialism, different trappings, same trap.
8. the grim reaper—suffering is the ticket. Problems and pain are like entertainment and become a basis for relationships.
9. little miss/mr. What the hell—You’ll never change. Go ahead and eat that sugary and gooey desert.
By the way, because we get locked into different archetypes it is of course easier to see the flaws in others who are possessed by Gremlins that do not touch us.
And of course it is usually easier to notice these habits of thinking in other people and not ourselves.
Regardless of the psychological position we continue to open gates. We keep looking for entry points or strategies that will help us access the power to make the changes that we seek.
Typically we seek out people who follow our same strategies. Some examples include:
1. You can’t
2. You should, you ought to and you must
3. you need to
4. you don’t deserve
5. fantasy is reality
6. tensing in anticipation of pain helps
7. hem and haw
8. my fear is scaring me to death
9. they have to change in order for me to feel better.
Read the story of the king and servant.
We can tame our Gremlin, which will help us get out of our own way
Get to know your Gremlin. Simply notice and breathe a lot.
- Your habits
- Your concepts
- Your attachments
Usher in the light—invite others to participate. Face your issues openly.
Play with options
Notice the obstacles and Gremlin strategies that hold us back
Love of friends will make a difference in helping us get out of our own way to lives God’s way within our spirits
Trust God and trust yourself because God is in you.
And remember: Your prayers are already answered.