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Vol. 79 - No. 8
August 2008

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

               

Change

It’s amazing to think that, after this baseball season, Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium will be no more.

The upcoming demise of Yankee Stadium was commemorated with the recent All-Star game. Shea’s departure is being marked with a Billy Joel concert. And then, the physical landscape of New York baseball will be radically altered.

Perhaps the new parks will be even better! But there is something sad about seeing the old stadiums disappear. In "Field of Dreams", James Earl Jones delivers a moving monologue about how baseball is the one constant, unchanging reality in American life. But even the National Pastime has experienced plenty of changes–artificial turf, the designated hitter, wild card teams in the playoffs...and then, of course, "unofficial" changes like steroid abuse. The demolition of the great stadiums further erodes that sense of baseball-as-constant.

But time does move forward, even in baseball. Long-standing records are broken (Ruth’s and Maris’ home runs, Cobb’s lifetime hits, Gehrig’s consecutive games). Historic stadiums disappear (Ebbetts Field, the Polo Grounds). Progress is worthwhile, even if it disturbs our desire for our sports to remain timeless.

The fact is, even good change is stressful. It’s wonderful how Manhattan has been transformed into a safe, clean environment. But it also means that the place is more jammed with people than ever. While negotiating my way through a particularly thick Times Square crowd recently, I thought: "Bring back the crime and dirt! It held the crowds down!" I didn’t mean that, really–but it does show that even good changes can be difficult!

Think, too, about the fall of the Soviet Union. That may be the biggest single change in my life–a gargantuan superpower dedicated to the destruction of our way of life simply vanished. What a wonderful change that was! Yet the collapse of the Soviet Union immediately led to horrific war in the Balkans, and then to the rise of Islamic terrorism. So even the good changes can have a dark side.

Perhaps the second biggest change in my lifetime has been our economy--from an industrial to a service economy (a long-ago cartoon declared that a "service economy" meant that "the only way to get a job is to join the service"), from an economy centered on America to a global economy. It’s harder for a lot of people to get by. The kind of household I grew up in–working class, owning your own home, needing only one income to get by–is in severe danger of extinction. And another change that stresses everyone: the rapidly-changing price of fuel. I was listening recently to an old song that declared "gas is cheap". Not any more! What a change that has been.

All change, good or bad, is stressful. That’s why we need a constant in our lives. We need something unchangeable and immovable in our lives. In this world of change, we need something solid to cling to. That’s why it’s wonderful to encounter a Bible verse like:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Or one like:

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
              (Isaiah 40:8)
Or:

...the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change
              (James 1:17)

And that’s why we so love to sing a hymn like:

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

One of the most joyful things about our faith is that it does provide us with something unchanging. We have a God who is faithful and reliable–who isn’t going to love us one day and despise us the next. And knowing that unchanging God helps us live in this unstable world:

Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Paradoxically, our unchanging faith tells us that God experienced the two greatest changes of all: birth and death. He was born of the Virgin Mary, and He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Those are the two most radical changes in human life–and Jesus underwent them. But He did it so that He could bring His unchanging love into our world and into our lives. The birth and death of Jesus pour into our lives a love that will never fade or grow cold, a love we can depend on every day.

Who knows what changes lie ahead? In sports, in culture, in the economy, in the climate...many unexpected things can happen. But in the midst of it all, whatever change may come, we have a firm foundation, a solid place on which to stand, a "kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:27). Even if the National League adopts the designated hitter rule, even if alumninum bats are accepted, even if Wrigley Field introduces artificial turf, even if corporate sponsorship causes the new Yankee Stadium to be renamed Barbie and Ken Park, Jesus Christ will still be the same yesterday, today and forever!

God loves you and to do I!

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