Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Faith to Accept

This is the second in the series of sermons on The Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

Last week I took the second phrase and looked at the courage to change. This past Sunday I took the first phrase and worked on the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

One the one hand I hesitate to say that there are things that you and I cannot change. There have been some things in history that were declared unchangeable that people of good will changed. I’m an optimist in faith; so, I have been reared to think of myself in this world as a change agent. But, says the prayer, there are simply some things in life that cannot be changed.

Three areas where this might apply are: 1. Past regrets, 2. Unchangeable situations, and 3. other people.

Do you have any past regrets? Someone on the way out of church Sunday said: “I don’t have any regrets…” Then, he followed his words with hearty laughter. We do all of us have things that we regret, but the prayer helps us to remember that they are past and hopefully done.

Reynolds Price tells the story about his professor at Cambridge in England. Professor Nigel went to see his mother who was near death. She was lying in the bed, her eyes closed. Thinking her asleep he stayed awhile and then left. As he opened the door to leave, his mother said clearly, “Nigel, my only regret is my economies…” Price explains that the British use this word “economies” to mean stinginess. I regret my stinginess in giving love, in helping when I could have, in giving as much as I might have. My economies.

God grant me the serenity to accept past regrets and let them go…

There any many unchangeable situations in life. Sometimes things happen to us that have nothing directly to do with us but still they affect us. Sometimes someone does something to us or we do something that creates an unchangeable situation.

A man learning to fly felt suddenly abandoned by his teacher. Seated beside him in the plane, the teacher suddenly cut the plane’s engine and the plan started to spin out of control. The student said to the teacher: “How dare you desert me now.” After a while the teacher took charge of the plane and landed it. The teacher said to the student: “There is no situation in that plane that I could not get you out of…”

The student said that it was like God was saying to him: “There is no situation in life that that I cannot get you through or out of…there is nothing that can happen to you that I cannot help you through…I am with you always…It will be alright.

There are things in my life that I wish were different back there in my past, but some things cannot be changed, even by me or you.

Then, there’s the reality of other people. Some people live in deep anguish that they are unable to change other people. And yet, we who have lived long enough know that no person can change another. The only person who can change you is you.

Young couples planning to get married sitting in my office are so much in love. I love to ask them: “What do you think needs to be changed in the other?” They struggle to think of something. After all, they are in love. The other is at this moment perfect. But, if you probe enough, something comes out. Then, I say, you cannot change the other. He can change him. She can change her. All you can do is love them as they are.

You can have an influence on someone. You have the power to lead someone maybe, but change must come when the other decides.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

One person says that we crucify ourselves between two thieves: “Fear of the future and past regrets…”

We all long for serenity, and serenity comes only from the grace of God.

Winston Churchill planned his own funeral. At the end of a powerful service, a bugler arose on one side of the altar and play taps. “Day is done”. It’s over. Then, on the other side a bugler played Reveille: “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning…”

John Claypool says that this was to say: “All your worst times are not your last times…”

God give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change…

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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