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Call to worship (here)
So did you remember to reset your clocks last night? The folks who forgot should show up pretty soon.
We go through this changing times thing twice a year. “Spring ahead, fall back.” “Spring ahead” sounds like a good thing, a great leap forward, progress. “Fall back,” on the other hand, is a term that when used in a military sense might mean retreat, something you do when you are worried that you might be defeated. Circle the wagons and all of that; it doesn’t feel as positive.
What I don’t get, given that one seems more positive than the other, is that it is in the hopeful spring that we lose an hour of sleep.
We don’t get that hour back until the coming fall when we can then retreat to our beds and regain that lost sleep.
Of course, like too many things in our world, there are the haves and the have-nots. If you are born in the summer, you get a bonus hour every fall that you don’t have to pay back for six months, no interest. Ah, but for winter babies like me, an hour is stolen from us in the spring which we don’t get back for half a year. It is, if nothing else, an interesting excuse for being tired.
Every year it seems, the Utah legislature entertains the idea of not participating in daylight savings time.
Arizona never got with the program after all, so why should Utah go along?
I am glad we do, however. This semi-annual changing of the clocks is a fabulous metaphor and it keeps us on our toes. It also reminds us that our days and our lives are more tied to the seasons and that the hours of daylight matter. It also gets us used to change. Maybe that is why Arizona doesn’t like it.
Some of you are old enough to remember Bob Dylan and his song “The times they are a changing.” Those of you who are younger may remember your parents or even grandparents playing the record. I loved Bob Dylan’s songs when I was young. I still do.
“Gather ’round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown
And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin’”
Prophetic words as our glaciers melt and the seas begin to rise. Can we learn to swim? Can we reverse the effects of the massive climate change that we have brought to our planet?
“Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen Keep your eyes wide The chance won’t come again Don’t speak too soon For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who That it’s namin’
For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they, they are a-changin’
Pay attention, he was telling us there. We don’t know what will happen. Will the horrible income disparity in this country continue to grow until there is no middle class and only the very rich and the very poor? Will those who are getting the short end of everything be able to make enough changes that they will be able to win justice?
“Come senators, Congressmen Please heed the call Don’t stand at the doorway Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled There’s a battle outside And it’s ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin’”
That verse really makes me think of our Utah legislature and their reaction to marriage equality. The halls of the statehouse have been rattled by more than one demonstration, including an absolutely huge rally for cleaner air. They are still standing in the doorway, however, blocking progress and change at virtually every turn.
“Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land Don’t criticize What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend a hand For your times they are a-changin’”
I loved that verse when I was young. I am somewhat less fond of it now, however. Adults have always questioned what the young people are doing. Saying they play too many video games is not all that different from what the matriarchs and patriarchs of the old hunting and gathering clans probably said about those crazy kids that wanted to plant corn and then wait around for it to grow. The youth are always the ones who are destined to lead us into the future. I will try to lend them a helping hand whenever I can and hope that I know when it is time to step aside.
On the last verse of the song, Dylan, as he often does, goes Biblical:
“The line it is drawn And the curse it is cast The slow one now Will later be fast
As the present now Will later be past The order is Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now Will later be last For the times they are a-changin’”
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
Dylan’s song is in the apocalyptic tradition. That is the apocalypse, or the end times, or even the end of time. There will be great change, the tyrants will be banished, and the kingdom of God, the beloved community, will be established here on earth as it is in heaven.
Who wouldn’t move heaven and earth to bring about justice? I do believe as 19th century Unitarian Minister Theodore parker said, “the arc of the universe is long but that it bends toward justice.” I do believe that most things anyway, get better over time.
I told you a few weeks ago that I thought change was mostly good because change means we are alive.
The times truly are always changing, in both good ways and in bad. They change in big ways and in small. Change is always a challenge, and always an opportunity. Change can be exciting and it can also make us angry.
Many of you I know have had a variety of reactions to the announcement I made about my leaving at the end of June.
There were some tears, and I know that almost all of you, while in some ways happy for me, are also sad that I will be leaving. We have loved each other well. Some of you, maybe even all of you, are likely just a little bit angry as well.
“How can I leave you? Why won’t I stay, another year or two at least?” That anger is OK; it is a very human reaction. We talked about anger last week. People get angry with their loved ones who die, just because they have died and left them, so of course it is fine for you to feel some anger. Remember the three steps I suggested to handle anger in a healthy way?
Own it, understand it, and then do something with it. Create the future you want.
Change can also bring fear. That is a big one and fear is, like anger, a normal emotion in the face of change. What will happen? Imagining the worst-case scenario is really easy to do. What if you can’t find another minister? What if you don’t like the next minister? Maybe we shouldn’t have a minister at all or maybe just a part-time one, just in case, just in case?
It is OK to have all of those feelings, all of those fears and anxieties. As I said, it is very human to feel like that when faced with change, especially a change that is not one you particularly wanted.
But, after you acknowledge your feelings and fears, then what? Do you hunker down and just sit with them? Do you pull back and disengage? I hope not.
If you do that, you miss the good that can come from the change. You miss out on feelings of anticipation and excitement. Getting a new minister is exciting!
Who knows what new skills and gifts they will bring? Who knows what they might be able to teach you? Who knows what you might be able to teach them. Ministry in a congregation is a journey of partnership.
A minister of a church is a leader of course, but a minister also follows the lead of the congregation, channels in a way the hopes and dreams of the gathered community. I have followed you as much if not more than I have lead you. Where do you want to go next? That is for you to decide, both as individuals and as a community.
Sometimes we want to turn the clock back. We want to return to what we think was a simpler, less confusing time. It we really remember the past, chances are it was just as complicated and confusing as it is now.
Sometimes we want to set the clock ahead, to skip over what we are dealing with right now, to jump to some future time where everything will be settled, where everything will be wonderful, where all our problems will be solved.
I don’t know what the future will bring. I do know that it will be different. I also know that it will very likely be every bit as challenging and confusing as everything is right now. It will also be just as exciting and just as wonderful.
Every year, an hour is taken away from us, and every year we are given an extra hour to do with as we will. Let us use that loss and that gift as best we can.
When we get to our closing hymn, think about how you and we are on our way to the freedom land.
Best of all, in these changing times, know that we have the freedom to decide what that freedom will look like and how we want to get there.