Last week I did something I have never done in the four years I’ve been preaching weekly: I went to bed on Saturday night with no sermon in my head. I have developed a very disciplined preaching practice because I know I am one of those people who needs to be prepared. If I tried to preach off the cuff, I’d wander into the weeds and take you with me. I finally crawled out of bed in the middle of the night to finish it, and then I prayed I could keep it all in my head for three services without the usual two or three days to let the words settle in.
Why was preaching so hard this time? Possibly because I was preaching on change, something I resist if it has any possibility of leading to conflict. I am trying to change the way we help people in the church, from reacting to immediate material needs to building relationships that lead to deeper change and real mercy. I was interrupted as I typed this just now by a disabled man who came in out the rain to ask for gas money. I told him we don’t give out cash, but I could take him to get gas later today when I had a moment. I told him we could also offer assistance through the food pantry, and that I could offer prayer. “That’s all?” he said. He refused the offer of prayer and went away angry, talking about how people keep slapping him in the face. This change is hard.
We’ve been following the Hebrew alphabet in this series, and we have come to the letter yod, which is just a harmless looking little apostrophe. Like the fleet-footed god Mercury or the Peter Pan fairy Tinkerbell, it’s a tiny flash. Hebrew mystics see yod as a little cosmic messenger bringing change into our lives, a dot of energy that takes on greater and greater force as the call to change cannot be ignored or denied. Many of Bible heroes who called for or ushered in change have names that begin with yod, which makes the “y” or “j” sound: Jacob, Joshua, Joel, Jonah, Jeremiah, Isaiah (Yeshaya), and of course, Jesus.
When you think of the great prophets, you realize that although change is exciting, it can be costly and dangerous. This week in worship, we considered how Jesus was so overcome with zeal for his father’s house and how he confronted the system of corruption that had taken root in the temple, overturning the money-changers tables. I asked the congregation what tables God might be calling them to overturn and what change they feel the Holy Spirit trying to bring about through them. Change starts with us.
How willing are you to change? This week as you adjust to the time change, focus on being flexible and open to the urging of those tiny, cosmic messengers that whisper in your ear.