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Vol. 77 - No. 11

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             


Things That Change, and Things That Don’t

            For more than twenty years, Tower Records has been an important part of my personal world.  I have visited stores in Austin, Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans.  When I lived in Albany, I would drive several times a year to Valhalla and hop a MetroNorth train for Grand Central Station to shop at the Greenwich Village and Lincoln Center Tower locations.  Over the past ten years, I have patronized the three Long Island locations many times (and have bumped into church members there numerous times!) They are all wonderful places–and, as my son once noted, they all smell alike!  I don’t know what that smell is, but to me it has always been the aroma of beautiful music–jazz, opera, hillbilly, the whole gamut!

            And now, it’s gone.  The chain went bankrupt and ended up in the hands of a liquidator, who is selling everything off.  In a few weeks or months, those marvelous red-and-yellow signs will vanish, and that “Tower Records Smell” will be a memory.  It’s a symptom, of course, of what’s happening in the music industry–online downloading has to a large degree displaced music stores.  (Supposedly the bankruptcy judge who ruled Tower out of existence was influenced by his son’s devotion to the I-Pod).

            In other words, the music industry has changed.  The focus has shifted from the record store to the computer screen.  And the change is a little disorienting for us who dearly love the record store.

            The music industry isn’t the only thing that has changed.  Indeed, it seems that change is the only constant thing in our world today.  A friend of mine who had lived in many places once told me, “Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve heard people say: ‘If you don’t like the weather here, just wait a little while and it’ll change’.”  But more than the weather changes!

            As I write this, a World Series game is playing on the televison behind me.  Baseball is the most timeless game there is–literally so, since there’s no clock in the game!  Yet how many changes have happened even in this game!  Artificial turf, the designated hitter, the restructured and lengthened playoffs (which lead to tonight’s game being played in 41 degree weather!)–not to mention the soulless corporate names that are hung on modern ballparks.  (Yes, “Wrigley” was a corporate name, too–but it beats “PNC Park” and “U.S. Cellular Field”).  Even this “timeless” game has been marked by many changes.

            It’s not my intention to bash the present and pine for the “good old days”.  The past is beyond recall (except for that solemn and wondrous moment when Jesus died for us, a moment that becomes present for us every time we receive Holy Communion).  God calls upon us to live in the present, not pine for the past.  But the fact is that the constant changes in our world can be very disconcerting.   

            Most disconcerting, of course, are the changes that take people out of our lives–someone moves away, a friendship is broken, or–most disturbing of all–someone dies.  These are changes that sometimes can seem unbearable.

            And that’s why one of the most precious things our faith tells us is that there is something unchanging–God, and His love.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning,” the Book of Lamentations declares (3:22-23).  And a beloved verse from Hebrews says: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” (13:8)   God is not going to go out of business; God is not going to change from a loving God to a hateful God; God is not going to stop loving us. 

            Our economy changes, our society changes, our personal lives change–but there is one absolute constant in our lives, and that’s Jesus, His death, His resurrection, His presence with us.  During this autumn time, we watch the leaves change, and it reminds us of the many changes in life–but we also remember that “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”(Isaiah 40:8  And we also take comfort in the classic stanzas of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”:

            Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane

            But the church of Jesus constant will remain.

            No matter how many changes happen in our world, our society, our lives, some things will always be true.  Whenever I pray, God’s ears will be open to hear–that will never change.  Whenever I am burdened, I can go to Jesus for healing, comfort, forgiveness–that will never change.  Whenever the words “This is my body...this is my blood” are spoken over the bread and wine, Jesus is there to bring us renewed faith, renewed hope, renewed strength–that will never change.

            And that is what gives us strength to deal with all the changes in life...the minor changes, like a favorite store closing...and the major changes, like a change in jobs, or the loss of friends and loved ones.  Our lives are not built on shifting sand, but on solid rock–and we can withstand the changes that life throws at us.  We sing:

            Change and decay in all about I see

            O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

And He does abide with us.  And no change can dislodge Him.  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).  Jesus Christ truly is the same, yesterday, today and forever!                                                                                      God loves you and so do I!

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