Seasons of change are perhaps some of the hardest times in our lives. Change can be good but change can also bring about hardships and sadness as well. Change can build us up and it can tear us down. I think what is so hard about change is the unpredictability of it. Now I don’t know about each of you but I like the predictable. Predictable is calm and easy to handle because you know what is coming at you. But life is constantly changing: our relationships with one another are constantly changing and our relationship with God is constantly changing. Change has to happen for growth to happen.
When I was a little girl one of the ways that my parents heated the house was by wood stove. My family had a wood lot on the family property where the men in my family, my father and two uncles, went to cut down trees to turn into fire wood each fall in preparation for the winter. They would ride out there, sometimes taking us kids, in an old rickety wood truck from the 1940s. The driver’s side door wouldn’t close all the way and the bench seat was home to a hive of bees in the summer. My father and uncles would use chainsaws to cut the trees down and in the process my father would teach us about nature, and the trees themselves. I remember learning about the age of trees from the rings and the periods of change in the tree’s long life when either drought or hard times affected its growth. Those periods of change left their marks on the trees. You might not be able to see it on the outside of the tree but you could see it on the inside. Those periods became integral to the formation of the tree.
Today, we focus on the changes that we experience in our lives. Periods of time that shape who we are. Changes become a part of our identities. Everything and everyone experiences these changes and it builds them up as children of faith: Individuals, communities, nations, and even churches. Today we talk about change because we say good bye to Lynn as she moves on to a new ministry. For her she is going through a period of change that will form her spiritual life as she moves forward. For us we too are going through a period of change, as we discover where God will take us next in our musical journey as a church. This period of change will also create in our spiritual journey that like those tree will help to form us.
Throughout it all, though, is God. God is the one constant in all the change we experience. He calls us to be open to the changes in our lives and to see his work in those moments and to allow for us to build our faiths on those moments. They are opportunities to build something new. Moses ascended into the mountains with Joshua because God asked him to. God didn’t say “Moses come see me” and Moses responded “Why?” or “What do you want now?”. The people had already made significant changes in their lives, leaving all that was familiar for forty years of hardship. God had already asked a lot of them in the terms of change. Whenever God calls upon people it usually brings about change and it was about to for the people of Israel.
Moses would receive the law in his conversations with God. And in those moments, he too would forever be changed. His appearance shined so, that no one could gaze upon his face again. But the changes God asked of the people were going to require them to follow laws that would hinder how they lived their lives. But in the practice of them they would be brought closer together as a united people and they would be brought closer to God in relationship.
God does not require us to like change. But he does ask us to be open to it, to be open to his possibilities, to be open to the ways that it will shape us. He asks that our eyes be open to the beauty that change brings into our lives that would not otherwise have happened. John O’Donohue, a 21st century priest and philosopher said, “Much of the stress and emptiness that haunts us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty”. I would take this further to say that much of our stress in life is attached to our lack of trust in the beauty that God is creating in our lives. Sometimes we just need to be still and let God work being open to where he is taking us next instead of trying to control it.
The disciples struggled with the changes asked of them, as well. They too were asked over and over again to open their minds to the beauty of God and to trust where he will lead them. I think instinctually we resist this, too. We struggle to to trust in the direction of the Lord because it is filled with uncertainty, doubts, and sometimes troubles. We are, like the disciples, being asked to take on a risk. But if we are to experience the fullness of God’s beauty then we must move forward into the change and discover the exciting and new paths that God lays out for us.
Peter, James, and John came face to face with this change at the transfiguration. They witnessed a God event that made them want to do as their tradition dictated: building houses, or places of worship. Interestingly, God said no but rather to listen to Jesus and to live into his ways. God was asking the disciples to go against their very ancient traditions. They were being asked to leave behind the rigidity of their past for the new ways that God was going to show them over time. They were being asked to trust without knowing the true nature of the outcome.
God changed everything for them. And in order to truly be open to Christ, they needed stop thinking of him in context of the traditional warrior Messiah. So too we are called to see him in the changes of life. We are called to see him at work in career changes, deaths and births, in changes to family life, and in changes to our daily experiences. God is part of all changes leading and guiding us, creating something new and beautiful in us and in our communities. So this morning as we say goodbye to Lynn, let us look towards the future with hope and eyes open to the new musical journeys that God will take us on. Let us see the changes to come as an opportunity to listen to Christ and to follow where he takes us next in this journey. God said to the disciples, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” So Be still and know that God is here. Be still and know that God is a part of all of the ups and downs of life, creating in the moments of change something more beautiful then we could possibly imagine. So today we wish Lynn all the best in her new career and we walk into our future trusting in God no matter the changes we live through. Trust that God is there speaking to you. Our faith life is grown through the changes we each experience, it is in those moments that we can feel the beauty of God’s creation. Let that creation shine in your lives as we discover where God will take us next.
 John O’Donohue, 21st century.
 Matthew 17: 5, NSRV.
(Based on Exodus 24: 12-18 and Matthew 17: 1-9)