Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 1, 2013
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
I enjoyed a very peaceful evening last Sunday. After church I went home, mowed the lawn, and was enjoying a quiet book. And then I checked Facebook. And everything was blowing up about some girl named Miley Cyrus. Admittedly, I had no idea who Miley Cyrus was. So Maggie gave me the whole run down. Bill Ray Cyrus, Achy Breaky Heart, whose daughter is Miley Cyrus, who for awhile was the teeny bopper icon Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, who is now back to being Miley Cyrus. And let’s just say, that what Miley Cyrus was doing on MTV Sunday night was not something that Hannah Montana would have been doing on the Disney Channel.
Again, I had no idea as to what just happened. Facebook and Twitter were blowing up with people who were mad, or upset, or dumbfounded at what some celebrity had just done. Honestly, I was just more dumbfounded that so many people cared about those celebrities. But that’s a different matter.
It seemed to me, from what research I did on Miley Cyrus, that part of the outrage over her “dance moves” on Sunday night, is that she was not acting like the cute, teeny bopper icon that she once was. Well, Hannah Montana would have never behaved in such a way.
So now I’m scratching my head for three reasons. First, there was somebody named Hannah Montana? That’s ridiculous. Second, you’re shocked that some celebrity did something stupid? Third, why is everybody so upset that this girl grew up?
Because everything changes. It’s the start of another school year, and with that come many changes. New teachers, new classrooms, new students. But deeper than that, everything changes. People die. Countries come and go, empires rise and fall. You are healthy one day, and the next day you’re diagnosed with what will kill you. Everything changes. Even the church changes. New prayer books, different priests, new music, old music, whatever. Even the things that seem the most stable things in our lives change. Over time, the sun will grow and expand and burn the Earth to a crisp. Even our galaxy, the Milky Way, will one day be swallowed by black holes and totally destroyed. The stars in the sky will vanish, and new ones will replace them. Everything changes.
I find this profoundly unsettling. I am disturbed by the fact that there is nothing I can trust in that won’t, eventually, fall apart.
Yet I do not stand here this morning to sadden you. I stand here to remind you. I am here to remind you that your best friend will die, that the house you live in will eventually crumble, that even the sun will one day stop burning. But that’s not the whole story. I am here to remind you that one thing does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The Lord Jesus that your parents and grandparents worshiped is the same. The Lord Jesus that the disciples followed two thousand years ago is the same. The Lord Jesus that we acclaim is the same Lord Jesus that our children and grandchildren will acclaim. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
I am not here to sadden you, but to remind you. That no matter where you go, or what you do, or how far off from God you stray – no matter how much you change – Jesus Christ will not change. And what Jesus Christ has done for you, will not change.
Every time I am honored enough to baptize somebody in the name of the Holy Trinity, I am reminded by what our Book of Common Prayer says about baptism. “The bond which God establishes in baptism is indissoluble.” The bond which God establishes in baptism is indissoluble. Once that water has been poured over your head, and once that oil has been sealed upon your forehead, nothing will change God’s heart for you. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Despite all of the changes and chances of this life, God and God’s love for us will never change.
How do I know this? Love came to us in the form of Jesus Christ. And while still loving, Jesus was mocked. He was tortured. He was executed. The love of God was put on a cross and stuffed in a tomb. Yet none of that – not the lash, not the cross, not the crown of thorns – changed God’s love. For Jesus rose from the grave, forgiving and loving and healing as he had always done. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do not know what will happen in Syria. I do not know what will happen in Egypt. I do not know if we will be sucked into another foreign war. I do not know if I will make it home alive this afternoon. I simply do not know. Because everything changes. I do not know what celebrity will do something dumb next. I do not know what the next big disease scare will be. I do not know how climate changes will affect our lives. I simply do not know. Because everything changes.
In times like this, when our world seems so delicate and prone to destruction, I hold fast to the Church. Because it is here, in the Church, that we are reminded of how God does not change. That is why every single Sunday of the church year we do the exact same thing. We do the same service every single Sunday because in the midst of our fickle lives, Jesus Christ does not change. And our consistent worship reminds us of that one great, eternal truth: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
I wish that I could stand here and tell you that if only you believe in the Lord Jesus, then your whole life will work out great. I wish that I could make promises of wealth and luxury if you worship God. I wish I could say that if you follow Jesus, then your life will be calm, easy, and without change. But I can’t make those promises. All I know is that terrible things have happened in this world, and terrible things will happen again. Things will change, some for better, some for worse.
I do not know what you are afraid of right now, but I will bet it comes down to something changing in your life. Everything changes, except God, and God’s love for you that was sealed in the waters of baptism. For Jesus rose from the grave, forgiving and loving and healing as he had always done. Remember, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.