COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. - Book of Common Prayer, p. 219
My family belonged to a small Episcopal church. It was not a friendly, welcoming place. We were sticklers for following exact protocol. The rector was a real stuffed shirt sort of cleric whose sermons were as interesting as reading the ingredients label on a householder cleaner. One Sunday, my husband and I attended the 11:00 a.m. service. We were sitting near the front. Everything was going smoothly as usual. Father Smith was delivering his sermon, when suddenly there was a bunch of rustling in the back of the church and then a loud crunching sound followed by a lot of slurping, followed by what sounded like aluminum foil being wadded up. We wanted to see what was causing the noise but knew it would be too tacky to turn around. Then during Communion, the ushers acted so nervous that they seemed confused about what row was next to send up to receive Communion. I really knew something was horribly wrong when one of the ushers, Bill, whose thick silver gray hair, styled like Elvis Presley’s in his early days, had collapsed like a soufflé! It was only at the end of the service that we found out what had happened. A couple with three little boys showed up during the service. They had bought some fast food and brought it into the church and sat on the back row. They also had a big bag of potato chips. We were so happy that a family had come to church that no one said a word that no food or drinks were allowed in church, or that the whole family was in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. The whole congregation, as one, realized that the only thing important was that this young family had come to church. It was an important moment in our church to realize we needed to change. And we did.
In the story of the blind man healed by Jesus (John 9), the blind man, after gaining his sight, said the two most important words, “Lord, I believe”. Meanwhile, the Pharisees refused to even acknowledge the ministry of Jesus, even after all the wonderful things He had done. It is pretty astonishing how they were so unwilling to change! This week, we are reflecting on the theme “the Word of God,” and it is worth noting that the first word Jesus brings of the good news of God’s kingdom is “repent” (see Mark 1): and that word just means “change.” My hope is that you and I will never have the willfulness of the Pharisees of John 9, but instead will be like my old church where one young family helped us see the light, and changed to become a people who welcomed others into the light of God’s love.