Life Changing EventsPosted: December 6, 2015
Life Changing Events
SLIDE 4: ADVENT – PREPARATION & WAITING
About the second Sunday of Advent some people become impatient with the lectionary, because they are looking for the Christmas Story already. But Advent is counter intuitive in our immediate gratification culture, because Advent is about preparation and waiting – patience. Some fundamentalist evangelicals like to get everyone excited, because Jesus may appear at any moment. Change your life and donate to the ministry, because it’s your last chance! The end is near! If the end is so near, we might wonder why they need the donation to the ministry, but then that is another issue.
SLIDE 5: ADVENT SEEMED TO GO ON FOREVER
The four long weeks before Christmas teach us to be patient. When we were kids, remember Advent seemed to go on forever? Christmas was never going to arrive! If we want to change the world, if we even want to change ourselves, even something as simple as losing a little weight, building up our strength before an operation be prepared for the possibility of a long wait! Waiting patiently is the lesson of Advent.
SLIDE 6: PREPARE FOR GOD’S COMING
Like many other first century Jews, John the Baptist was in despair. The world was going to hell. Israel was a conquered occupied disorganized people who had no hope of throwing off the iron-yoke of Imperial Rome. He told his fellow Jews that God was up to something, and they had better get right with God before the end. He told them it was not enough to be born a Jew, you had to make a personal decision to embrace the way of God and keep the commandments, in order to be ready, when God intervened in history and brought the world as they knew it to an end.
SLIDE 7: MANY LIFE CHANGING EVENTS
Certainly the end of the world would be a life changing event. But there are many other life changing events of an individual nature that signal the end of the world as we know it personally. Divorce can certainly signal the end of our own world as we know it. A major illness can change everything. Who would have thought a year ago I would be preparing for a hip replacement. The birth of a child can initiate a whole new world of 2 o’clock feedings, pre-school, parent-teacher conferences we never knew before. Children leaving home for school, or moving away to take new employment can signal a major life transition. You know what the Rabbis say about the beginning of life. “When does life begin? When the dog dies and children leave home.” A major illness for a parent or loved one, or the death of a parent can mark another major change in our lives. The end of a job can seem like the end of the world, and retirement for good or for ill is a life changing event.
SLIDE 8: EXTERNAL EVENTS CHANGE OUR WORLD
Sometimes our lives are changed by a major event in the world around us. Many people can still remember where they were and what they were doing, when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. It was after lunch on a Friday, and I was in fifth hour Geometry Class just before Thanksgiving, when the news came over the High School intercom. What about you? Many people too young to remember the Kennedy assassination, can remember, where they were, when the planes flew into the Twin towers on 9/11. When the first plane hit the north tower, I was driving Elizabeth to school, and she was startled, because the news commentators on the radio started uttering expletives on air. The other people in the news room were too stunned to beep out the bad language. Our lives can be changed by events in the world around us.
SLIDE 9: CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS – VIETNAM WAR
For me one of the defining life changing events was the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was only twelve at the time going through confirmation, and the threat of nuclear annihilation awakened me to the need to choose a socially and spiritually meaningful career path. At first I thought that path was to prepare to enter the Foreign Service, until during the Vietnam War, another important life changing event, I realized that the peace makers were not making peace, and I was being called into the ministry.
SLIDE 10: INTERNAL EVENT
Our lives can also be changed by internal events. Malcolm Clark in his book the Physics of God, records an internal event that changed his life: “I got a burning desire to answer these questions after my forty-fifth birthday. Birthdays never bothered me up until that one. When I turned forty five I looked right down the barrel of the death gun and saw that it was indeed loaded. Looking back to age twenty I realized that the passage of twenty five years seemed like nothing.
“For whatever reason, the palpable recognition of my personal mortality inspired me to want to understand the basis for moral versus immoral or amoral behavior. Ethical conduct has value in the here and now. I didn’t deny that. The lives of everyone in society improve when people act according to just rules. Yet, I felt a visceral need to know whether or not a more basic rationale existed to define and favor certain behavioral principles over others. I wondered whether or not generally accepted moral practices had a deeper basis. Would a more fundamental understanding of ultimate reality reveal inadequacies in contemporary moral behavior?” The realization of our mortality, however it comes, can be a life altering event.
SLIDE 11: DON’T MISS THE MIRACLE
We all have the possibility of experiencing life changing events, and they come, whether we are ready for them or not. Sometimes when God shows up, we miss the miracle, because we are too busy. We are chasing after money or stuff, or we are running the kids to basketball practice, the swim meet, or girl scouts. We are trying to get ahead by going back to school, or working a second job. Sometimes when God shows up we miss the miracle, because we are too cynical, we no longer believe God does things like that in our world. Miracles are for the credulous, the dreamers, the flakes, the sky-pilots. Sometimes we miss the miracle, because God’s love is unfolding in our neighbor’s life, and we are so focused in on ourselves, we cannot see what is happening right in front of our eyes in someone else’s life.
SLIDE 12: UNDERSTANDING OUR NEIGHBOR’S NEED
Sometimes to experience the miracle we have to get outside of ourselves long enough and listen in order to understand our neighbor’s need. Like the story of the stranger who approached the pastor after the morning worship service and said, “I’d like you to pray for my hearing.”
The pastor placed his hands on the man’s ears and said a passionate and earnest prayer.
“How’s your hearing now?” the pastor asked.
Looking surprised, the man said, “Well, it’s not until tomorrow morning.”
When we presume to pray for someone else we need to know what they are asking us to pray about. Sometimes the miracle is listening long enough to know what to pray.
SLIDE 13: WHAT LIFE CHANGING EVENTS ARE YOU EXPERIENCING?
What life changing events are you experiencing? Maybe you are in the midst of a health crisis. Perhaps a friend or loved one has died. Maybe you’ve celebrated a birthday, or you’ve started a new job, or you are experiencing a change in your relationships? Whatever the nature of your life altering event pray that God might reveal to you the miracles that are happening around you. Sometimes when everything seems to be coming apart at the seams it is because something new is preparing to emerge. A crisis in our lives is like giving birth. We wait and wait and wait for a baby to come, and then labor begins. And after hours or even days of pain and exhaustion a new life emerges into the world.
SLIDE 14: THE MIRACLE OF NEW LIFE
Life changing events are like giving birth. We wait, and wait and wait for a wedding, a birth, an illness, a death, a divorce, a retirement and then we experience the pain of grief, letting go, change, the sting of healing, and if we don’t get stuck and see our way through the transition, new life emerges on the other side. If we are patient, if we pray, if we are persistent, we can experience the miracle of new life.