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Unexpected Change: Bishop Helsley Chaplin

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Most people don’t like change.  We tend to not like change because change feels like a loss of control, and we like control.  When the change is the result of choices you have made, then we can at least feel like we are in control of the change, but it is still uncomfortable and difficult.  People like to be comfortable, and nothing is as comfortable as routine and familiarity.


But, one of the constants of life is change.  Change occurs as we grow as people, it occurs with the passing of time, and it occurs whether we chose it or not.  Change is a part of life, just like the coming of the seasons or the cycles of weather; even if we might be able to understand, anticipate, or expect the changes of the world, we no more control those changes than we control the seasons.  Especially in the current situation, with so much of the world dealing with this crisis and trying to find our way through the Corona Virus, it is particularly clear that the world has changed.  But with the coming of change comes an inevitable question:  What do we do now?


Some people tend to handle change better than others; some people struggle with change more deeply than most.  But what seems to be the secret?  Well, let’s take a moment and look at the story of Daniel.  In the book of Daniel, chapter 1, we learn that Israel was conquered by the Babylonians and that the king took the young, educated, future leaders of Israel into slavery in Babylon, allowing his own appointed leaders to fill that void.  For Daniel and his friends, their world was turned upside down.  Daniel was put into service of a king serving pagan gods.  He was given a new name, one that honored pagan gods that were not his own.  He was living in a land among alien people, in a culture completely alien to his own.  And, possibly one of the most difficult changes for Daniel and his friends was the fact that he was pulled away from the seat of worship for his God.


For the nation of Judah, Solomon’s Temple built in the capital of Jerusalem was the center for worshiping God.  All Jews would attend synagogue to learn the law and to worship God, but the Temple was the center where people would come to perform sacrifices and other rituals, and it held the Ark of the Covenant, which was considered to be the very throne of God among His people.  When Babylon conquered Judah and took Daniel into captivity in about 605 BC, he was pulled out of that world, and he would even live to hear of the Temple being destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC.


As Daniel was dealing with the loss of so much, grieving for the loss of the life he once had, he was also confronted with the question:  how does he relate to God if he cannot practice his faith as he once did, nor could he connect to the place where he previously found the presence of God (i.e. the Temple)?  But the real example set by Daniel was that he adapted to the circumstances he was in, and he found a way to express his worship to God through the means he had.  Daniel mourned and grieved for his loss, but he also refused to dwell on what he once had once had and on things that were beyond his control, and he choose to do what he could to carry on with the life God had given him.


The world has changed all around us, and I suspect that things will continue to change before the current struggle finds a resolution.  But, as we carry on with our lives, I urge you to be cautious about how much time and energy you spend dwelling on how things used to be.  Be careful about getting caught up in what might have been, because unless you have a time machine that allows you to go back in time to change the past, you benefit very little from dwelling on past choices, especially when those choices were not your own to begin with.  Focus one those things that you do have control over, such as how you spend your time, how you treat people during this crisis, and above all else, how you honor God in times of hardship.  Mourn and grieve for your losses, but do not let your grief for what you have lost blind you to that which you still have; dwelling on what you do not have does little to help, but taking stock of what you do have helps one determine how to take the next step in life.  And, as a final reminder, the life of Daniel serves as an eternal reminder:  worshiping God is not something done in a temple/church, it is not defined by the songs we sing or the rituals we practice, but THE FOUNDATION FOR HOW WE WORSHIP GOD IS IN HOW WE CHOOSE TO LIVE OUR LIVES.