Don't expect to be transformed. Like, at all. It's wicked expensive, and we have other things to do. Jesus is inconvenient.On June 23 I heard a great sermon about the Gerasene demoniac. The line I remember most from that sermon — because I had to write it down — is that the demoniac, when Jesus refuses to let him go with him, proclaims throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. The preacher said that he was "bursting with Good News of what Jesus had just done for him."
In this same sermon, though (as I recall) the preacher told an Episcopalians light bulb changing joke. One version of this I've heard includes having one to mix the drinks, but most versions of this the numbers change, but one person does something (either changing the light bulb or calling the electrician) and then a variable number of others do the same thing: talk about how much they liked the old lightbulb or miss it.
Do we as Episcopalians (as Mainline Protestants) fear, resist, or expect transformational change, the kind of change that is eye-opening to others (if not immediate) and that is contagious of a new life. Do we expect sanctification, being made holy, or are we quite content with business as usual? In the tradition I grew up in, people shared stories about how their lives had been changed by knowing Jesus. Some people gave up drinking (what they felt they needed to do) and others had peace through difficult times.
As we bring people into our flocks, are we avoiding transformational change by lowering standards or are we praying for the transformation of souls, encouraging people to make changes, and then supporting them in their efforts with God's help (which can quite easily come in the form of community assistance). I don't think these transformations will all be immediate and dramatic, but I am asking if we expect them at all. Do we really expect people to be being made holy in this life?
If it doesn't happen, yes, grace. But I understand grace as not only forgiveness all the time, but also God molding our hearts, minds, and wills more toward that of Christ — and in so doing setting us free from the things that bind us. The Gerasene demoniac was freed not only of the demons, but literal chains, and couldn't wait to tell people about his good news. Do we ask people what their good news is? And do we tell what ours is?
One experiences of transformation in my life, a time where I have experienced the most grace and growth with God, was when I came out to God and then began a coming out process to people who knew me. I think it was summer of 2007 when I was living in South Carolina. Earlier in the summer I'd had an intense conversation with my mom about a friend of mine in Alabama that my step-dad had said spent the night at our house — he hadn't.
My mom asked if he was gay and then asked if I was gay. I said no on both counts. I lied to my mom because I wanted to have my summer in South Carolina; I didn't want her to call my uncle and tell him that he needed to send me home. I was carrying the guilt and shame not only of being gay, but also lying to so many people — including actively lying when I was asked.
When I've told people this they say, "Um, don't you think God knew?" Well, yes, obviously God knew. God created me in God's image, but words, especially spoken words have power. In middle school a relief for me and plenty of other people was online chatrooms. We could talk about our curiosity because typing it made it not real. As long as we didn't say it out loud we weren't stuck.
When in my prayer I said "God, I'm gay." It seemed as though God thumped my forehead and said, 'Duh. That's how I made you." This was after years of praying to have those feelings taken away, lying on the floor of my bedroom in high school in tears praying for me and another dear friend to be straightened out. When I heard/felt the closest I've ever felt to God audibly speaking to me, I was filled with Joy (as Lewis writes about it) and started to have bubbly laughter.
That thing that I'd been hiding, been so afraid of, been lying about — wasn't anything to worry about. It wasn't analysis of scriptures that changed my mind, it was the presence of Christ breaking the chains of shame and guilt that bound me. That's what started my real-life coming out process beyond just a few friends, and it's what really got rid of the fear I had around me. In John 3 Jesus says, "For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
I was set free and had to come to the light to show that my deeds are done in God — and yet there is change to come. I need to love more simply and rely less on others' opinions of me. I need to do a better job having patience and not getting so angry. I need to do a much better job putting my whole trust in Christ as Lord. I have known change on the personal level, and thus I expect that a relationship with Christ brings it. It won't always look like mine, but I expect that something changes; life changes, and the status quo doesn't remain in a life, when someone knows the Good News of God in Christ.
What are your stories of freedom and redemption? How have your chains been broken? What stories do you have to tell, and where do you tell them, showing the transformational change of Christ?