- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: August 26 2020 August 26 2020
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.Henry F. Lyte, “Abide with Me”
The words of this beloved hymn ring true in several ways, but maybe the most applicable these days is change. Change is a part of life; a part that few of us like if we're honest with ourselves. I'll admit, I don't like change very much. I like routine. I like order. I like normal. And I don't very much care for these things being upset by change. Of course, if you are like me, this is due to the fact that we often find some sort of comfort and security in routine, order and normal daily patterns.
While this is not necessarily a sin problem, it can certainly be a temptation for us to turn things like routine, order, and normalcy into idols that bestow what only God can give, namely comfort, security and peace.
We've seen and experienced enough change and decay for one year maybe more! It seems as though the carpet of routine, order and normalcy has been yanked right out from underneath us. Some of us may feel as if we've had to push the pause button on our lives. Many of us are waiting for our lives to get back to some sense of “normal.” Maybe our lives will get back to the way they were, maybe they won't. Only time will tell.
One thing is for sure; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and “Thou who changest not” abides with us always! The God of history is only Unchangeable and He is our ultimate source of comfort, security and peace—not routine, order and normalcy.
Professor emeritus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Robert Kolb put it best:
God is not pleased when we try to find the stability and security of our lives in maintaining or returning to doing things the way we always have. He wants to be our only ultimately stable, security, and shalom … He is also displeased with us when try to make our customary way of doing things the anchor of our lives and do not find our anchor in His Word and His presence. 1
Unfortunately, we all have a way of anchoring our lives in things that were not meant to hold, sustain or anchor us. Unfortunately, we have a way of fearing things above or more than God, loving things above or more than God and trusting in things above or more than God. God's good gifts (even routine, order and normalcy) are for us to enjoy, but not to worship, cling to or rely upon for what only God Himself can give.
Luther reminds us in The Large Catechism:
As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God. 2
Change has a way of upsetting our lives that none of us really welcome whole heartedly. And yet, change in our lives always brings the opportunity for us to reflect on where our faith and trust really lie. Change, challenge, trial and struggle may or may not be from God, but He will always use these to draw us closer to Him and His Word (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:8–10).
Reframing the First Commandment in a positive way, Luther reminds us that God invites us to trust, look to and cling to Him always especially in times of challenge and trouble.
“See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another.” In other words: “Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else.” 3
As those who have been born again by baptism into a living faith we know who to look and cling to for all things, especially our salvation. And yet, how easy it is to look elsewhere for comfort, security and peace.
Thankfully, “Thou who changest not” changes not His grace and mercy toward us in Christ. As the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed and rejoiced in, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23).
Change and decay are indeed all around us, but Thou who changest not, abides with us now and always with His grace, with His Word and presence. "Jesus Christ, who gives a peace no human system or institution, custom or practice can give, is here for us, at our side, on our side, in every contention with every new normal." 4 Thanks be to God!
Serving you in Christ,
- Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, I, 3.
- Luther, I, 4.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.