One of my favorite scenes in all of the cinema; from that scene where Charles Foster Kane stands in front of a fireplace roughly the size of the first floor of my house plotting his next move, to the big reveal at the end of Tootsie where Dustin Hoffman removes his wig and shows that the latest television star is a man and not a woman, you know, moments of great gravity or great comedic aplomb; but I like a scene in the cinematic masterpiece that is, or was, Wayne’s World.
Wayne’s World is the fictional television show produced for public access television from the basement of Wayne Campbell and is co-hosted by his bosom buddy, Garth Algar. Both of these young men are hilariously but unconvincingly played by men in their forties and in the kindest terms the very kindest terms it is a morality play about the dangers of trusting in overnight success.
The scene in question shows Garth, dana Carvey in a long blonde wig for those of you keeping score, is working on a robotic arm on a massive workbench undoubtedly purchased with the money from the overnight success and he is discussing the show with an executive and a change is proposed and the hand spasms widely and garth is forced to “kill it” with a hammer, afterward he opines, “we fear change.”
We use that phrase, I suppose that makes me a lot like frat boys across the country, using a catch phrase, but we do it every time we try something and feel that little drop in our stomach when things are still up in the air and we don’t know which way they will land and I will sometimes look at my family and say “we fear change.”
But we do. We as a people fear change. Not just here in America, we have probably bucked the trend of fearing change more than any other place on earth, but as a people, as a species, we seek safety and snuggle in, we look for a place where things are just so and we fight like all get out to stay there.
Maybe things are changing a little these days. Maybe the uncertainty of the job market or the economy are making us out of necessity more adventurous. We have no choice, the safety and security of the old situation was yanked out from under us and we have to launch ourselves into uncharted territory but that is a new, and uncomfortable thing.
Look around, so many of the cries you hear of the way the world is now is that it is no longer like it was, the safety of the things that we trusted, that we used to think of as our safety and security and the wonder, the shock is that our safe place is gone, and, well, we fear change.
Because we’ve been convinced that change is bad. Little changes are good, and you ought to be rewarded, you will be rewarded for making the little changes, a new deodorant will allow you to remain manly while not smelling manly, a whitening toothpaste will rescue you from dingy teeth and make you the light of the party, like you deserve; you deserve it because you, are the crown of creation, you are in your safe spot, your comfort zone.
We are living in the greatest country on earth, we are told. The world is our oyster, we are told. Anyone can grow up to be president, we are told. the world uses our currency, fears our military, respects our economy. this is the place where we want to be, this is the safe place and you are a big part of that and so there is really no reason for you to change, there is no point in changing, any change from here is bad because when you are at the top of the mountain, every direction is down.
And that is great. That’s really terrific and while it is a good thing to be number one, it is also instructive to note that we are not America. I know that there is a good argument to be made for us being what makes america great but that doesn’t serve my point so I’m setting it aside.
But we are not America, not number one, sometimes, to be honest, we stink.
And sometimes we are awesome. The pretense that allows us to think of ourselves as unassailably awesome is also the thing that makes us fear change. I take my brother Patrick and myself as a fine example. We have fabulously different approaches in child rearing, especially when he was just beginning with Finn, his first. Debbie and I carried Caitlyn into the church for the first time, heard an older lady from the congregation coo and sigh and handed her right over, and she was a party favor for the grandmother crowd for the next half hour. Patrick didn’t even let his own mother see Finn until he was almost a week old.
I think that’s nuts; he thinks our way was reckless and we are ill inclined to change our viewpoints, we have our children and our pride in them at stake, if we admit that we might have done things differently, we are also admitting that we may have made a mistake, and that is dangerous territory.
We don’t like to change because that might actually mean that what we are doing is not as perfect as we may want to believe, that we may be flawed. I am sure that this is, to some extent, one reason why coming to a church is so odd for some people such a challenge to them. They are already pretty sure that they are going about their lives in the right way already and they don’t want to change, they fear change.
And Jesus changes things.
Jesus changes things.
There is no name that I am aware of that can change things the way that the name of Jesus can. John leaps in the womb at His approach, because John knows that things have changed, even still in the womb, John knows the calling of the herald, knows the calling to be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness and leaps in the womb because everything has changed.
When some people hear that the first order has been ended and the new order begun from the Hebrews reading this morning they wonder what it is that they like that they are going to have to give up, what thing that they love that they are going to have to change.
And since our internal narrative as humans is that we are awesome, change is bad.
On the mountaintop, every direction is down, from the top of the heap, all change is giving something up, surrendering something, having less than before.
But what if that were not true? Why is it that we seem to have forgotten that there is something higher, something greater, a calling, a power, a majesty, a God who is not bent on knocking us down from the mountain, but is instead completely committed to the prospect that we too can go higher, we too can continue to rise higher, to a place we cannot even see from where we are now, even from the mountaintop.
And all that is required to get there is giving up the notion that we have it all, and are in need of nothing.
As Americans we have a great deal of pride in our nation, we are the most powerful, the richest people the world has ever known and all that is required to rise higher is to realize that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and that the inheritance is not a couch to rest upon, masters of the universe and yet inert, but a race car to drive forward to greater feats of democracy, greater feats of statesmanship, something even better than today.
The thing holding us back is fear. We fear change. Every direction is down when you are on the mountaintop.
The same thing is true for us as individuals.
We fear that Jesus is going to make a demand upon us that we do not want to fulfill; that Jesus will ask us to give something up, whether or not the Bible ever says so, (fear is not rational all the time), we fear that Jesus will take something away from us, and if we don’t then some of the folks we run into every day on the street think so, they fear the judgment they hear from so many Christians because it might call into question their decisions, their lifestyle, their devotions, their stuff, themselves. They do not want to change.
They fear change.
Well it is time to put an end to that. We are the ones who need to remember that Jesus is not an anchor for our spirits or our lives but instead wings that set us free, not taking something away, but instead the very best gift of all.
The gift of the truth.
The truth sometimes hurts, to be sure, we do not like to hear that we could be doing better, and its implication that we are not doing everything perfectly now. But the gift is also the knowledge that we are not alone in trying to do better, that we are not alone in seeking after blessedness and hope and joy and meaning for all people. We are not alone in that, the gift given tomorrow night, the savior of the world, is with us.
And not as taskmaster, not as whip cracker, but as companion, as confidante, as the one who can go on before where our human faculties cannot take us, and do it all with grace, with love, with forgiveness of all of those little peccadilloes we commit, helping and leading us to be the better people we want to be.
Because we all know, when we are alone or in the dark or somewhere else that strips us of our illusions, that we are not the top of the heap, that there are things that we do that we wish we could stop doing, wish we could do better. The illusions that help up believe we are on the mountaintop and which empower our fear of change are just that and we will be well served by getting past them, confessing, say, and being forgiven of them, having them set aside by the grace of God can only do us good.
That is what is coming into the world tomorrow night.
A baby, in a manger, but a gift from God. Come not to make us less than we are, but to make us more. No more merely inheritors of earthly wealth and prestige, now we are inheritors of eternity and possessors of a great promise.
That we can be better, more. NO Jesus coming to smack us around, just coming to give us better sight to see the truth, that we can be more than we are, that this is not the mountaintop, the mountaintop is God’s alone but he’s lowering an escalator.
We will be changed by His coming. We are changed by it every year and indeed every day. Not in ways that diminish us but in ways that make us stronger, nobler, better than we were before. No change should scare us, for our path may be rocky, but Jesus has guaranteed us a destination filled with blessedness. We need not fear change, we can embrace it and allow it to make us better.