One of my seminary professors (who happens to be a rather prolific author) is fond of saying that one of the most amazing things about Jesus is his expectation that people can change. It is really rather stunning to see him speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, whose life is a series of failed relationships, speaking as if a new kind of life for her is within reach. Jesus goes to the home of a tax collector, breaks bread, and somehow the man whose life has been built on greed becomes a giver.
People had this way of changing when Jesus got involved in their lives. When people hung out with Jesus, when they had him over for a meal, when they asked questions of him and listened, and when they stood on a hill outside Jerusalem and watched him die, they changed. Not all of them. But many of them.
It's stunning to see this. Especially in a world where we are told, as children, that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" or "a leopard can't change its spots."
So this evening, as we tip-toe up to the start of a new year, I am thinking of change. How exciting the prospect of change may be for those of us who are stuck in lifeless, frustrating, soul-numbing, broken places.
Perhaps it is possible not only for people to change but for nations. And for churches. Which is a good thing...because while there is beauty and grace in most churches the truth is that many congregations are turned inward. Not only are too many churches focused on being a provider of religious services that will please constituents but the church has too often fallen silent in the face of injustice and profound human need.
Change is never easy. Change rarely comes quickly. But with God there is the possibility of change...new life. Jesus says if we take his love and truth into our lives (he talks about himself as bread that brings life to those who receive it) then we can live in new, eternal, free, right ways.
Remember that tonight (or today...or whenever you read this), okay? The Carpenter shows up and leopards change their spots, old dogs learn new tricks, tax collectors start giving money away to make things right, and a Samaritan woman stops trying to fill the hole in her heart with one more boyfriend.