One of the world’s most interesting things is change. There are days when it is a good thing and then there are days where we just don’t want to deal with it. The other interesting thing is that depending on our point of view, change can even affect us in a very negative way while being very beneficial for many others. Here is an example of what I am talking about. Today we have street lights on Main St. or Clayton St. They are run on a timer and when it gets so dark, the sensor opens a circuit and electricity flows into the bulb creating light. The lights stay on until the sun begins to rise the following morning and then when it gets light enough the sensor turns off the flow of electricity and the lights go off so that the electricity is not running in the lights all day long. By the lights going on and off this way the city saves money and in a small way that is reflected in the amount of taxes we do not have to pay to keep the lights on as the old saying goes.
How many of you think this is a good thing? Does anyone think this is a bad or stupid thing? If you lived 75 years ago would you say the same thing? What if you were the person who sold the city kerosene to keep the lamps filled with fuel? What if you were the person whose job it was to light and extinguish the lamps each day? This change cost people jobs and money back in the day. Was it a good thing from that perspective? Was change good for everyone? But did that change bring about something that was more positive for the greater good?
Anytime change occurs there are going to be positive and negative impacts. We have to decide as a society and if you want to be patriotic as a nation to declare what we believe is more important and work then to accomplish that change. The change is always going to be opposed by some group. So how do we know which way is right? We have to see where the most people are going to be positively affected by the change. We have to be willing to see how God is going to be involved in that change. We should always be on the lookout for the presence of the Holy Spirit in that change. Here is an example from scripture.
16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you[a] a way of salvation.” 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 The jailer[b] called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord[c] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
When Paul and Silas met the girl in the marketplace she was annoying them. This act of driving out a demon was possibly not done with best intentions, maybe even out of anger instead of compassion. Yet a demon was driven out so we should all shout for joy and say Amen! But her parents were no longer going to have a means of income. Paul’s actions in essence has now taken bread off the table for this family. No where do we know that the girl was being exploited or treated poorly, but she also has no means to earn an income because she lost her “gift.”
The parents rally support for the cause and a mob grows. Paul and Silas are drug before the courts and are confronted about what they have done to the poor child. The family stands to lose everything, something must be done. The only thing the magistrate can do is have them beaten severely and thrown in jail. These darn fanatics have come to town and ruined a good thing we had going in Philippi. We will show them to not mess with our free market economy.
How about the jailer? After the earthquake and the prisoners are freed he comes in and is ready to kill himself because he’s going to do the honorable thing. He can not look his superiors in the eye. He will be the talk of the town. Even if he takes his own life it might be made to look like they had killed him in their escape plan. Instead of dying a fool, he would die a hero, being overcome by the prisoners he laid down his life to protect the ideals of Roman superiority. Maybe they would even write songs and tell tales of his actions before losing his life for the patriot’s dream. But wait, what is this? Paul and Silas are still there and they beg him to not kill himself. Overcome by this wonderful news he falls down and asks to be saved. Then he and his entire household are being baptized. Later in your Bibles you will find a book entitled Philippians, written to a church in this city that was started because of the actions of Paul and Silas.
Now is there anyone here who believes that by Paul casting out that demon in the girl was not a good thing for the church? The people at the time were very upset and didn’t want this change to occur. Yet God used the events of change to create something amazing. Not only was there a shaking of the earth and prisoners were set free to preach the gospel, but a new church was created. Because somebody was bold enough, or angry enough to disrupt the status quo, God’s power emerged victorious. The Holy Spirit changed a pagan trade city into a thriving church in whose name sake Philippi was named after a Roman governor. Today we study and try to learn from Paul’s interaction with that city in how to be better Christians—all because of a change that occurred.
Change is the center of being a Christian. Even when we say we hate change, if we are unwilling to change for the sake of the gospel then we are really not Christians. If the greater good of our neighbor does not outweigh the status quo then we are not being faithful in our calling to be disciples of Christ. Even to the point of laying down our lives. That’s the power of the resurrection.
This last Sunday of Easter as we look at the power of Christ’s resurrection in our lives, we are no longer afraid of being the agents of change. Even death itself cannot hold us because Christ broke the chains of death in his victory from the grave. So why do we conform when we know that change could be better for our brothers and sisters? Why do we allow gun lobbyists to have so much control when our brothers and sisters are again gunned down this time in Virginia? Why do we not demand that more money be spent on mental health? Why do we allow pharmaceuticals to keep people from getting the medicines they need because of costs? Why are we afraid of oil industries and allow them to continue to destroy our environment? Why do we allow teachers to be the lowest paid profession with the greatest responsibility in our nation? Why do we allow families to be torn apart at our borders? What are we afraid of? We are afraid of change. We have allowed fear to rule for way too long. Maybe it is time to allow the power of the Resurrection to rule instead of fear. Maybe it is time for us to stop being afraid of change and to be the agents of change right here in our little communities. Amen.