Saturday, February 12, 2011

Faith to Change

I am beginning a three-part sermon series on the Serenity Prayer. I have always been fascinated by that prayer, maybe because I yearn for serenity. Serenity means simply “peace”. And, who doesn’t want it. When I think of peace in this sense, I think of that tough inner security that nothing can fully take away. Surely, no one has a peace that cannot be touched at all by the circumstances of life, but all who profess to be followers of Jesus have access to a power that nothing can fully take away. Serenity.

There’s no doubt about it. We all yearn for it.

Where did the Serenity Prayer come from? We don’t know for sure. Some say that it goes back as far as the year 500 AD, or maybe earlier. What we do know is that in 1934, Reinhold Neibuhr used a form of it in a chapel service at Union Theological Seminary.

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 one from the other.

We do know that around 1941 AA started picking it up as the prayer that best expressed what they were doing and going through. At first, everything that they sent out had the Serenity Prayer on it. Every communication, every meeting, was saturated with this prayer. You can still find it in some of the literature of AA and you might still hear it prayed at some of their meetings.

The first sermon I am going with the second petition: the faith to change.

Change is in everything. Of all the things in life that you can’t count on, one thing you can count on for sure is that things change. And, living in this world we are in now, we might as that things change fast. Just when you get used to things being one way, they change. It’s been said of the weather in South Carolina: if you don’t like it, wait a day or two and it will change.

The world around us changes. Politics change. And, we, from the first moment of birth, are on this movement of change. We move from one house to another, from one town to another. Some today are moving from one country to another for work. Sickness, death, stress, all bring us change. And, we can fight the change that comes into our lives or we can find a way to embrace change as God’s way of making us.

God give me the courage to change the things I can. Often I am praying for others to change; very seldom am I praying that I will change myself. And, yet, this is where the prayer takes us. What about you needs changing? Admit what needs to be changed. Is it anger, fear, the need to control, the need to believe that everything has to be perfect, the need to be right? What needs to be changed in you?

As some people say today: denial is not a river in Egypt. Stop denying and confess, admit the changes that you need to make in your own life.

Then, the prayer invites us to let God do the changing. Instead of turning to God, we often just try harder or try to change ourselves. And, usually, our attempts at change on our own result in frustration. Just think of the New Year’s resolutions that you and I make.

Let God in Christ be your guide. Tell God what you want to change- or to show you what you need to change. And, then ask God to lead you in the change.

One of the main principles of Christian faith is the notion that people can change. We don’t have to stay the way we are. Things can get better.

God grant us the courage to 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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