... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Pentecost 25 Year C
Message November 10, 2013

A Call to Radical Change

Text: Haggai 1:15b – 2:9; Psalm 145:1-5,18-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “madness is doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting different results.” Thomas Edison was repudiated to have had an encounter with several doubting reporters who were inquiring as to his experiments to invent an electric light bulb. Among the reporters one asked how many experiments he had to that point conducted. He answered, “Over 2000”. The reporter commented, “2000 experiments on the same thing! So what have you discovered?” Edison, without a hesitation is said to have shot back, “over 2000 DIFFERENT ways not to make a light bulb.”

Discovery, invention, innovation and growth come from this basic understanding that change must be undertaken. Whether we talk science, politics, economics, literature or ministry, if we continue doing the same old, same old, we will always get the same old results. There needs to be change in order to grow, experience a new discovery innovation or whatever. In biology and specifically genetics, if you take two male rats, one black and one brown – you will still have the same in 2 months – unless one kills the other. However change 1 parameter making one a female and in no time at all you will have lots of rats. In human biology if the blood group of a father is O and that of the mother is O every child of these parents will be O. If it isn’t – believe me there’ll be lots of change in that household!

However all humour aside, all four readings today are calling, each in its time era, for a radical change to decidedly failing situations. In the reading from Haggai, the prophet is calling for a change – a change initiated by the Lord and conveyed to those with authority in the lines of the children of Israel. Among the people returned from the exile in Babylon there is a spiritual despondency. They had come back to Jerusalem expecting to see the Temple in its glory, only to find ruin and desolation. Many were so poor they could barely eke out a living from the spoiled land. Despite all their prayers and dreams the only experience was that of abandonment and fear. Yet Haggai insists they need to change. They need to see and understand that God is still in their midst and will give strength to those who will trust and who will labour. Upon the arrival of Zerubbabel, work on the new Temple was commenced and some 20 years later was completed. True, this Temple would be nowhere near the grandeur, size and opulence of the Davidic Temple but it would be a central place of worship and a focus of renewed faith. The promise of a Temple that would surpass the Davidic one would never be realized in the material sense. But looking back and understanding the Davidic Temple in terms of organism as opposed to physical stature we can see a grandeur and beauty never experienced by Judaism as was in Christianity.

The psalmist calls for change in a personal commitment. Beginning with an individual undertaking of worship on a daily basis there is a vision that this singular enterprise will grow, being passed from one generation to another, until not only are all the nations prising God but all living things will be bearing witness to God’s greatness. Such a call to change in the face of apostasy was indeed a radical change – and by radical I mean effectual, purposeful and to the betterment of and for all.

While on the surface the letter to the Thessalonians appears to be an encouragement to stick with the same old, it is in fact encouraging its listeners to be wary of change for change’s sake. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Indeed every discovery, every invention did not care for change for change’s sake and so on but from need, and rested on fundamental truths that needed to be held immutable. Certain truths must be retained and used as the standard. Such truths are able to withstand the ravages of time and trial. The supremacy of God, the steadfastness of Divine Will, the adherence to the covenant had and have proven to be foundational. When someone questions these foundations or tries to set up another foundation in opposition, the results will be catastrophic and ultimately destructive for all concerned. Paul or someone writing in his name understood this all too well and was advising those at the Church in Thessalonica to recall Christ’s messages and lessons. Radical change may often be a return to the foundational truths and starting over from there. While this might not seem to be change, if you have seen where the mistakes or missteps were taken in the former and do not repeat them – then in fact there will be radical change.

In Luke’s Gospel passage we hear the confrontation between the Sadducees – one of the testings done by the religious elite to attempt to discredit Jesus. Their very question to Jesus is ludicrous but Jesus changes the test. In reality the charge is not one of present or future it is one of eschatology or existential reality. As a religious group the Sadducees were directly linked to the Davidic priestly line through Zadok and perhaps prided themselves on this lineage and traditional religious practices. True, part of their tradition was to deny the existence of such a concept as resurrection, but their questioning of it to Jesus was done on purely malicious grounds. What Jesus sees however, is a group ignorant of reality, trying to project on God’s Kingdom an understanding borne out of an earthly existence. Hence he answers them out of a picture of radical change. In a world where life depends on propagation to grow and exist, in God’s heaven, no such need is required and thus no need for Levarite law. Radical view – radical change? Wow!

So how is this radical call to change coming to us today? A couple of things. First – we are observing Remembrance Day tomorrow not as a call to nostalgia but rather as a call to reflect on all the mistakes which cost us so dearly to see where we might change, where we might have new insights and live toward a peace wherein all may find tranquility, prosperity and harmony. We have not been successful as a people but in certain areas of the world there has been and continues to be an inkling of what may be. Unfortunately on a global scale we are far from success and so we are being called to a radical change that all might see.

Second and much closer to home – we are as an Anglican Church in a dire state of decline in this Diocese. It was only some 15-16 years ago that our numbers, by Stats Can, were placed at around 50,000 who called themselves Anglicans. The latest figures put that number at 5,000 and only about 1/10th of that who report regular church attendance.

We are sitting in water being slowly heated and we don’t realize it. We are being called to change – to change how we are as Anglican and Christians, how we do ministry, how we relate in a Post Christian society and how we live the Gospel in our lives. We are not being called to throw out the truths of Christianity nor the Divine foundations on which we live. In fact we need to return to these anchors and begin a journey which will lead to growth, to renewed understanding of God in our lives, to proper baptismal living and to true confirmational practice in our communities and society.

We, like the returned remnant of Israel must have faith, must trust God, must be willing to labour for a vision, find the need, fill it and in so doing be changed for the betterment of God’s kingdom here on earth and for all peoples.