2020 Trinity VII – The Only Constant

Postulant Ken Kubo
26 July 2020

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.- Romans 6:22

In one of the classes I teach on Agile Product Development, there’s a lesson on how leaders deal with change. Leaders with a fixed mindset view change as a challenge or even a threat because that potentially disrupts the way things have been working. Leaders with a growth mindset view change as an opportunity because different conditions may yield new market needs and new customers. Fixed mindset leaders circle the wagons to protect against the unknown. Growth mindset leaders actively scout the frontier. The bottom line of the lesson, though, is that change is going to happen – the only question is how we deal with it.

In the Sacraments, we invite divine grace as a change agent. As you know, a Sacrament has the combination of an outward physical part with an indwelling spiritual grace. The bread and wine of Holy Communion that, by God’s deliverance, we will enjoy together again someday soon, are food for the body, as the Real Presence of Our Savior nourishes our souls. In the waters of Baptism, the physical washing with water also spiritually cleanses us from the taint of previous sins.  We are changed through forgiveness and divine adoption. We are become like the green fir tree, and bear our fruit to holiness and no more to the host of worldly idols that surround us (Hosea 14). Our path through the world is remapped because we have become servants to God and not to Prince of the World. As Paul points out, while our new path may have its own dangers and unexpected twists, at the end we are redeemed to everlasting life. If Life is a game, then our destiny is even better than Millionaire Acres, although we have to acknowledge that there will be a lot of twists and turns depending on the spin of the dial and where we land. We are as likely to lose a turn as move ahead extra spaces.

One of my life mentors loved to say that obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off the goal. Right now, we’re in danger of obstacles piling up high enough to block our vision entirely! Our country is struggling with conflict on multiple fronts with no clear vision of where our collective path must lead, in part because we’re struggling with so many obstacles that it’s hard to make time for a heading check on our goals. Locally, we have worldly rules swirling about us while we also face immediate concerns with our health, our livelihoods, and our safety. My parents are currently (and patiently) enduring the kind attentions of Hurricane Douglas. They always remind me that while they’re still dangerous, at least you get days of warning with a hurricane; compare that to the minute or so we might get if “the very foundations also of the hills shake and are moved” (Ps. 18) around here.

As you know, we recently returned from visiting family in Texas where the infection rate from COVID-19 has been climbing. We also drove through the hotspots of New Mexico and Arizona, so I’ve been working from home per the suggested guidelines of my workplace to avoid coworkers for a couple of weeks. I am blessed to be able to work this way and to have a good job in these times, and I don’t take that lightly given so many who we pray for who are struggling.

Our faith is similarly challenged by the changes and obstacles of the times, both locally and throughout the world. As I mentioned last week, we are seeing continued attacks on church buildings and populations of the faithful. Though the vast majority of Americans still survey as being believers in God, the number who participate actively in any organized religion continues to fall. In Istanbul, once proud Constantinople, the Hagia Sofia – one of the greatest of early Christian cathedrals – has been converted back into an active mosque after serving as a multi-denominational museum for over 80 years. It is a reminder that the greatest of empires may be defeated. The message of hope in the movie “Terminator 2” was that the future was unwritten. For us, the lessons of history and the present tell us that we must apply wisdom and care if we want to write a better future – and part of that is avoiding the hubris of thinking we have all the answers today. We look to our educated leaders for guidance, but acknowledge that none of them is omniscient. When there’s an environment that includes unknowns and the chance of discoveries (good and bad), personal agility and resilience are also an important part of a growth mindset – to be willing and able to change course should new information or a hurricane arise.

“In heav’nly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear, and safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here.” – Anna Laetitia Waring

As we change course, whether as individuals or a society, we must keep our eyes on our goals, lest in avoiding obstacles we completely lose our way. Logic must balance emotion, courage control fear. The unknown is always before us – the only question is how we deal with it. In her poem, she did not state that change wasn’t an issue, just that with God’s presence and support, change and the unknown outcomes were no longer a source of fear. As the wise Mr. Miyagi said, “It’s okay to lose to opponent, must not lose to fear.” (Karate Kid III)  This keeps us from overreaction – the wild swerve that leads to a Sigalert on the highway of life where the consequences are usually more lasting than just losing a turn.

Since we cleave to one divine being who is actually omniscient and who knows the span of our future, it’s also a good practice to stop and ask for directions. We know whither we go and the way there. Our paths end in the Father’s house, and the way (and the truth and the life) is Our Savior who opened those paths for us. (John 14) Our passage was purchased once and for all by His sacrifice. He has paid the toll and retired the ferryman. But even given that, on the toll roads and carpool lanes, we have no assurance that the going will be easy, and while it’s easy to quip “when the going gets tough…” [the tough get going] it will not always be so simple to discern the right turns at every moment or to muster the will to turn the wheel. There will be refining fire to purify us (Malachi 3:2) and ultimately forge our faith to be strong and flexible. Consider though that being forged in fire is hardly comfortable to the ingot being so treated. We will suffer physical ailments, emotional losses, financial setbacks, personal failures, unanticipated assaults on our heart and spirit. Think of experiencing just the tenth part of the sufferings of Job and despair. If testing were fun, it wouldn’t be called a test. Remember that God is with us through all times, good and bad, and He offers us strength and comfort for the asking. On the other hand, He will not turn away just because we are impolite and demanding or take out our frustrations and anger on Him. He is remarkably broad-shouldered. Moreover, He has promised to seek us out if we are lost and bring us safely back to the path. When all the “here there be dragons” – the changes and unknowns on the map – come to get us, what we must always strive to do – what in fact as Christians we are privileged to do – is know that God is our Google Maps (or Waze if you prefer) helping us find the best route through. God is not out to get us or to laugh at us or even roll His eyes and say “recalculating.”

So to lean a bit more on Ms. Waring’s poetry – it isn’t that God stops change from happening or even that He will break change up into manageable chunks. Instead, God provides a foundation that is unchanging, a reference point from which we can understand and respond to change. Heavenly love is the lighthouse in the storm, the beacon in the darkness. Like the North Star, it orients our course and guides us true, and Our Savior is the way. And at the end of our journeys, when we are raised perfected into His kingdom and new and eternal Creation, all the frightening unknowns will end with all the dangers that beset us at every turn. When all the noise and haste pass away, we will finally be able to see clearly the face of divine love and realize that love has been the unchanging truth of the universe all along. Love is the only constant – the only question is how we deal with it.

Almighty and Everlasting Lord, we abide in your sheltering love amidst the chaos of the world, born of nature and of humanity. Strengthen us with your grace that we may have resilience to endure change, courage to support others through it, and faith to find our footing on your eternal bedrock. Protect us from the several calamities that threaten and distract us. Guide us to see in these moments new opportunities to shine your light into this darkened creation.  And bear us through all storms until we rest secure in your everlasting kingdom. Amen.