The Wisdom to Know the Difference

The first four lines of The serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr stand as a wonderful sentiment is today’s everchanging world!
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

This weekend I had the privilege of preaching at my grandmother’s home church, Campton United Methodist Church in Campton, Georgia.  I preached on the passage from Romans12:2 that talked about being transformed by God and not being conformed to this world. I talked about change and why people didn’t want to change.

Here is the irony and my thought for today.  As I was walking across the gravel parking lot to church, I started thinking about all of the memories I had in that place. As I preached, I looked at the stained glass windows dedicated in memory to members of my family. Going to lunch I looked over at the cemetary where several generations of my family are memorialized. Some things  we don’t want to change.

There are a whole lot of voices out there in the Christian world clamoring for more change. The old hymns, the old structure, the old ways need to be done away with so that the new can be ushered in. As I was preaching about how we would do anything to bring a loved one to Christ, I was relishing being at a place that had not changed all that much. As I was reading from a Bible dedicated to my great Aunt Bernice, I was talking about how to reach the next generation.

So my question is this. Do we always have to let go of the old to welcome the new? Is there a way that both can be a blessing to us?  After all, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I think maybe the wisdom I picked up on Sunday is that yes they can coexist. God was present both when my cousin Jean called me her “favorite methodist preacher” and when the preacher’s son and his young wife handed me all the money he had in his wallet ($8) so he could sew a seed in my ministry and receive a blessing for his ministry to the 5 teenagers they have in their church.

So now, I truly pray Niebuhr’s prayer.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.     AMEN

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