Living and GrowingBy Pastor John Stevens
There are two words that come to mind when I think of this season. One word strikes my heart with dread and the other, strangely enough causes life to race through my bones. They work hand in and hand, and while the first is necessary for me, without the second I would be in trouble. So, what are these words, you ask? I am so glad you did.
The first word must be introduced with an age-old joke: "How Many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer: "CHANGE???" Yes, it is true. Lutherans, along with a variety of other human beings, seem to have a problem with the word, "change." The mantra, "We have never done it that way before," starts to get chanted and we end up fighting against change. Doesn't matter what the change is, we fight against it.
I write this knowing full well of the Change I have promised for myself this New Year's. And I write this knowing full well that I have probably already broken most of these resolutions. Change is hard because change is different. It is out of sync with our daily routine. And because of that fact, my gut doesn't like the idea of change. Even though I am faced with the decision to change once a year (and for some of us, even that seems like too much).
So I am reminded of the second word. That word is this: "Hope!" And this word is why I think that change is ultimately possible. Because even though last year, and the year before last, I made resolutions to change, only to break them, I find myself desiring, longing to make a resolution to change this year. The fact that I long to try again, to get back on the proverbial horse, means that there is something that resides outside myself which is greater than I. And that would be Hope!
Martin Luther King knew about this hope in the midst of difficulties. When he had his dream about a society that was going to change, he had this dream with Hope. Hope fed this dream, even in the midst of riots, persecution and getting knocked off his horse again and again. I believe even after he was assassinated, the fact that his dream lived on is a tribute to his understanding of Hope. And Hope's ability to work in our hearts and push us to change. Even when we feel like we don't want it.
Because, you know what? The truth of the matter is this: We know that the changes we make many times better ourselves, and better society. We know that even though it is inconvenient sometimes to change, ultimately because it isn't like we have done it before; the truth of the matter is we want this change. Hope resides in our hearts and opens our eyes to the possibility of a better world, a better place to raise our children, a better society in which Martin Luther King's dream becomes more and more a reality everyday.
Hope is alive in our dreams, in our actions and ability to say to another: "I desire change. I desire to treat people like I want to be treated. I desire to reach out to my neighbor and love as much as I hope to be loved." This is the change I pray for, and I thank Martin Luther King for sharing a dream with us.
The Rev. John Stevens is pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church