July 3, 2016 – Transition and Change

Transition and Change
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC, July 3, 2016

Last week David gave us a wonderful message about transition and how impactful a time of transition is. I thank him for asking me if I wanted to share my thoughts about times of transition and its impact on us all.

The gospel for today is one that is familiar to us all, and is one of my favorites – especially the portion about wiping the dust off their feet in protest against the towns that did not welcome the disciples that Jesus had sent. This is such a symbolic action, not just a dusting of feet. Every time I read this passage, I think of my godson, Jonathan Waddell – a delightful young man, a disabled combat medic now working for the VA. When Jonathan was a little boy, perhaps 3 years old, he could get very frustrated, like many 3 year old boys. When he was particularly frustrated, he would jab his elbow at whom or whatever was frustrating him. I imagine if he had been one of the seventy sent out, he would have jabbed his elbow after he dusted off his feet! Yes, that is my favorite part of the reading, but the part that moves my heart today is in verse nine: “The kingdom of God has come near you.”

The kingdom of God is always around us, but what is it that keeps us from fully experiencing the presence and glory of God? There are several reasons why we can’t. I am sure many of you will recognize the name Ken Blanchard, owner of a large international management training and consulting company. Ken is probably best known for his book “One Minute Manager”, but it is interesting to me that he also calls himself the Chief Spiritual Officer of his company! Maybe these ideas will help explain how we miss out on the kingdom.

Figurative blindness and deafness: We are all very busy. Our lives are filled with frantic busy-ness, much of which we create ourselves! We are so busy that we keep our heads down, eyes on the ground, and ears closed. We do not allow ourselves to hear the sights and sound of the kingdom.

Ego: Blanchard says that EGO is an acronym for “Edging God Out.” He said that at times, we let the kingdom pass us by because the wonder of its greatness threatens our own sense of importance. We do enjoy ruling our own domains – no matter how small and insignificant they may seem to others.

Rigidity: Jesus did not always play by the rules. He advised his missionaries to forget about the letter of the law – to forget about the preciseness of etiquette, so that they could be flexible enough to share the Good News with everyone. When people are faced with a new way of doing things, they seldom respond with “super idea”! More often the comment is “but we have always done it this way” or “it will never work.” Rigidity makes us resent people who see things differently.

Fear: Fear can be paralyzing. There are times when we know what to do and how to do it, but we remain frozen in fear. Fear, if not addressed, can destroy hopes and nurture doubts.

These four concepts really spoke to me, and I thought, these concepts can be used to help us become more adept at moving through a period of transition! By being aware of these stumbling blocks, we can take steps to overcome them and thus be more accepting of change and transition!

I began by thinking of exactly what transition is. Well, in the language of the American Heritage Dictionary, transition is the process of or an instance of changing from one form, state, activity, or place to another. Sounds simple at first glance. But there is one important word in that definition – the word CHANGE. We have all heard the saying “no one likes change except a baby with a dirty diaper” and I will bet that like me you have responded, ..” but I love change – when change is needed”.

Why is it that we are so resistant to change? Change means to give a completely different form or appearance to something, to transform it. Change means to make something different or altered. One reason may be that even if we are not totally happy with the status quo, at least we know what the status quo is! If there is a change, the new state may be worse. Change can require hard work. Change can require you to make drastic changes in your lifestyle. A job change may require you to move to a different place, leaving behind family and friends. Happy events, such as the marriage of two people who are deeply in love, requires change. Change that helps us meet goals, expand our lives, and start a new life with the one we love is good! So why do we dislike change? I think the answer is in one of the other definitions of change is : “ to put fresh clothes or coverings on something, such as changing the bed sheets.” That definition was a “bazinga” moment for me! How many times have we just covered up what needed to be changed from within? The situation looked all nice and new, but was still the same old problem underneath the new covers, just as the old mattress is still the same under the clean sheets! In order to be effective, change must be real, not just a new covering on the lumpy mattress.

It is vitally important to embrace change in a time of transition, so I came up with five “R’s” to be aware of and to use as tools to help us move through change and transition:

Remember – to recall in the mind or to think of again. Remembering itself is not bad – our past helps mold who we become and it is good to remember the past. The danger comes when we remember while wearing rose colored glasses! Were things really that wonderful in the past? The summers spent at our grandparent’s – when we tell the stories about how great it was to go to the farm and live the simple life, do we forget that there was no indoor plumbing and that needing to “go” in the middle of the night involved either a strange looking ceramic pot or a walk out into the dark yard looking for the outhouse! Remember both the good and the less good from the past.

Return – to go back to an earlier condition or place or to revert in speech, thought or practice. Return is likely when all of the remembering is done with the rose-colored glasses. It can also result when we are figuratively “deaf and blind”, so busy with the tedious tasks and details of our daily life, that we cannot hear or see the benefits of a potential change and just want to return to what we knew and were used to.

Remodel – to remake with a new structure or to reconstruct. Remodeling, as in remodeling a room in your house, can bring new life to a room. Remodeling old practices and ideas can bring new life and excitement to a group or organization.

Rebuild – to build again; to make extensive structural repairs; to make extensive changes. Rebuilding is sort of like remodeling on steroids! Perhaps the same “footprint” is used, but the structure is for all intents and purposes, new.

Retreat – the act of going back or withdrawing; a period of withdrawal for prayer, meditation and study. Taking time to center oneself, to consider prayerfully the challenges ahead, and to study possible solutions is crucial. When I was a very new manager, I used to get frustrated when my brilliant, experienced mentor and boss wanted to take time to think, consider and weigh all the options. Once she even had a group of us go on an all-day retreat away from the hospital! I was a slow learner, but finally got it! You can’t think well when your mind is still racing 100 miles per hour!

We have exciting times ahead. We will be assessing, examining, evaluating, planning, sharing ideas, getting creative, having spirited discussions, experimenting, searching, praying, thinking, working and changing. Be aware of common stumbling blocks and pitfalls so you can avoid them. Latch on to good techniques and principles that will help you succeed. Change is hard. Transition is hard. But effective changes leads to positive transitions. You are up to the task. You can do it!

Resources:

Wikipedia: Ken Blanchard

Homiletics on Line

American Heritage Dictionary