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Matthew 21: 28-32
Jim from B.C

Here's what one senior citizen said: "We are senior citizens. "We were here before the "pill" and the population explosion. We were here before penicillin, polio shots, antibiotics and Frisbees. Before frozen food, nylon, Dacron, Xerox, ... radar, flourescent lights, credit cards and ballpoint pens.

For us, time- sharing meant togetherness, not an apartment in Mexico. A chip meant a piece of wood, hardware meant hardware and software wasn't even a word. . . . "We were here before pantyhose and drip-dry clothes, before icemakers and dishwashers, freezers and electric blankets. . . . (This is a long list, so I'll skip down.) "We were here before Batman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Snoopy. Before DDT, vitamin pills, disposable diapers, and Jeeps. Before pizza, Cheerios, instant coffee and decaffeinated anything. Even before McDonald's. . . . Before FM radios, CD players, and TV. . . . "In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, and grass was for mowing.

Coke was a drink and pot was something you cooked in. We are Senior Citizens: a hardy bunch when you think of what we've been through and the changes we've had to cope with. Don't tell us we're set in our ways! We've had to change more than any generation in history!" Change is hard, but the ability to change and adapt to change is what many experts say is the key to a long life. Business consultants say it's the key to running a successful company. It's certainly necessary for being a Christian! God is in the business of change. God is changing nature constantly, from summer into fall, fall into winter, winter into spring, and so on, every year. The world has certainly changed, and we have changed.

"Panta rei", said the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, "everything changes", and God wants to change us too, into better people. In theology, we call it conversion. That's when you become a Christian. For some of us it's sudden and dramatic; for some of us it's gradual, like osmosis. And since God is in the business of change, our conversion never stops. There is what we call "continuing conversion". St. Paul in his letters, talks about how we are in the process of BEING saved. In the letter to the Ephesians he talks about maturing as a Christian, and that our goal is to "grow up into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ". Theologian Nels Ferre said, "I have been converted three times: the first to traditional Christianity; the second time to honesty; and the third time to love of God and Man.

The third was the real conversion (he says); the other two were preliminary." Martin Luther once said that one of the marks of the Christian is daily repentance, that is, daily confession of your sins, daily putting the past behind you, daily trying to change and grow into a better person. Luther said that we are not just born again, but born again and again and again! Perhaps you've heard this famous quote from Luther: "This life is not righteousness but growth in righteousness; not health but healing; not being but becoming; not rest but exercise.

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified." The parable in today's Gospel Lesson is about the willingness to change, and the refusal to change. Jesus spoke this parable to convict the Pharisees. He said, there were two sons. The first son said he would NOT go into the field to work as his father asked him to. But then he changed his mind and went. The second son said he WOULD go into the field and work, but then, did not go. Jesus asked the Pharisees: "Which of the two sons did the will of his father?" They said, "The first son." Then Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him." This is one of the many times Jesus met with stubbornness and bull-headedness, with adamant refusal to change, even though the living God was requiring it. Now of course, in the Bible, steadfastness is a virtue. There are over 150 passages where the writers praise the steadfast love of God. Also, St. Paul, in his letters praises the steadfast faith of his fellow Christians. He exhorts the Philippians, for instance, to "stand firm in one spirit", "hold fast to the word of life", hold fast to the Gospel that you have already heard from me, hold fast to what you have already attained in your faith.

Yet in the same letter, Paul encourages them to be more like him (and here I'm quoting from NEXT Sunday's Second Lesson): "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, . . . I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God. . . ." Our conversion to Christ is never finished. Our growth in the Holy Spirit and in the love of God, is never finished— it won't be finished until we are converted into angels (or whatever it is that we're converted into after we die and go to heaven).

There are so many Scripture passages that assert this, but I'd like to quote you one of my favourites: 2nd Corinthians 4:16-17: "So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure. . . ." So God is calling us onward and upward, calling us to change and grow, calling us (as the song says) "to move when the Spirit says move". On the one hand, God is calling us to accept things as they are, to accept REALITY. And often that is very difficult. But God is also calling us toward our potential, toward the church's potential and toward the world's potential. God is calling us to accept things as they are, but always work for change, especially within ourselves. God is calling us not to stay with the status quo, but to MOVE ON, in whatever direction he tells us to go.

The Pharisees' problem was that they refused to change. They thought they were fine as they were. Of course, one of the most important Gospel truths is that God loves just as we are. In the famous hymn "Just As I Am," we sing about God's acceptance of us just as we are. Yet God does not want us to STAY just as we are! And God will pick on us, and prod us, and bug us, to move forward, to make needed changes, each and every day of our lives. Remember how God picked on St. Paul? God finally had to strike him down on the road to Damascus. And in the middle of the blinding light he heard Jesus say to him, "Saul, why do you kick against the goads?" Well, at that moment Saul finally stopped kicking. He let himself be led blindly, and be taught by less educated people, until he learned who it was who had struck him down. He became open to whatever plans this Jesus had in store for him.

Another way of saying all this is that we must be willing to be FLEXIBLE. I've heard marriage experts say that the key to a lasting marriage is flexibility. If either husband or wife are inflexible, unwilling to give in when there's a conflict, then the marriage will soon fall apart. All it takes is one inflexible party to ruin a marriage. So we Christians must learn to "let go and let God". In my reading and investigation of Queen Elizabeth the First, of England, I discovered that she was very wise, especially in knowing when to steam ahead and when to change course, when to listen to her advisers and when to disregard their advice. Elizabeth knew when to be ruthless and when to be soft, when to stand firm and when to give in. And so this "Virgin Queen", so-called because she never married, was married to her country for a very, very long time. We as a church must also be flexible, and willing to change according to God's leading.

After all, we are a Reformation Church, and one of the Reformation slogans was, "Ecclesia semper reformanda est," which is Latin for "The Church must always be reformed." Again, some things must NOT EVER be changed: the Scriptures and the eternal principles based on the Scriptures. These are what we will be professing in the creed, with our new members, a little bit later in the service. In this sense we must be like the Reformers of 1530: Hold fast to the eternal verities. Pray for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Let us constantly strive to improve upon the way we do worship, do evangelism and social ministry, and all the other things we do together for the Lord. Personally also, let us be willing to change in whatever way God wants.

Let us heed the Biblical call to turn, turn, turn. And as we do, let us die and rise daily with Christ. Let us walk with him that freedom road, until we reach our Promised Land. Amen. HYMN 495 "LEAD ON, O KING ETERNAL"