There’s an APP for That Part 1: Transition
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Psalms 46:1-3; John 14:1
Rev. Morris Brown
August 23, 2017
If you have a smartphone you probably know what an app is. Just in case you don’t, an ‘app’, or “application,” is a software program that can be installed on a smartphone or mobile device to help you do just about anything. As the iPhone commercial reminded us a few years ago, (1) “If you want to check snow conditions in the mountains? There’s an app for that! If you want to see how many calories are in your lunch? There’s an app for that! And if you want to find out exactly where you parked the car at the college football game? There’s an app for that!” There’s an app for just about anything in life. In fact, I as a new grandparent, I recently discovered a new app called JBaby! The app allows parents to send pictures from their smartphone to WIFI connected picture frames in the grandparent’s home. That way grandparents will always have up-to-date “framed” pictures of their grandchildren to obnoxiously share with their friends. By the way, have I shown you a picture of my new granddaughter?
Seriously, in our modern world there’s an app that can help us navigate almost every challenge we face in life. But, this is nothing new. For you see, our faith has offered apps that can help us navigate life’s challenges for several thousand years. That’s why we’re beginning a new worship series today entitled, There’s an App for That.
In this series, we’re going to look at applications our faith offers that can help us navigate a variety of challenges we face in life. We going to talk about apps that can help us meet the challenges of work, busyness, worry, peer pressure, forgiveness and success. Today; however, we begin with a message I’ve entitled, Transition: There’s an app for that.
Why are we beginning with transition? Well, because many of us in this room are experiencing transition in our lives right now. For example, a number of our high school graduates are making the transition to college right now, and their parents are experiencing the transition sending their child off to school.
Many of our teachers made the transition back to work last week. And our students will be heading back to class tomorrow. Some of us, like our organist, André Lash, are transitioning out of old jobs right now. While others like, Chris Dederer (our new organist) and Jared Gordon (our new handbell director) are transitioning into new ones.
There are also people among us who are experiencing transitions in their relationships. We have some couples in our community who made the exciting transition from single life in married life this summer. While there are others who are making the very difficult transition from married life to single life because of a divorce or the death of a spouse.
Finally, we have some folks experiencing the joyful transition of buying and moving into their first home. While others are painfully transitioning out of a home they’ve lived in for many years. Many of us are experiencing transition right now or know someone who is. So, does our faith have an app that can help us navigate transition? I think it does!
First, our faith helps us manage life’s transitions by reminding us that transition is a given in life. In other words, transition a natural, normal part of the human experience. The writer of Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us of this when he says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under the heaven, a time to be born and a time to die.”
Our faith says transition in life is inevitable. In fact, it is built into the very fabric of our lives.
(1) Our bodies remind us of this. For example, biologists tell us that every about 20 minutes, which is about the length of this sermon, over a half million cells in our bodies will die and be replaced by a half a million brand new cells. Just think about it! By the time you leave church this morning, you’ll have transitioned into a brand-new person.
(2) Nature reminds us this. For example, this week I was reading how Lake Itasca, a small lake, in Clearwater, Minnesota transitions into the Mississippi River which then travels over 2300 miles before transitioning into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans.
(3) Our denomination even reminds us of transition. As United Methodists, we all experienced a pastoral transition this summer. And some day, hopefully not anytime in the near future, we’ll experience it again! Here’s the point. So, the first way our faith helps meet the challenge of transition by remind us it’s a normal part of life.
Second, our faith helps us manage life’s transitions by reminding us transition can be grueling. In other words, life’s transitions can be hard, difficult, and incredibly challenging. That’s why the Bible often refers to times of transition as “wilderness experiences.” Take the story of the Israelites journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.
In the book of Exodus, we are told that under the leadership of Moses, the children of Israel were transitioning from slavery in Egypt to a new life in a land God had promised them. But to get to that land they had to go through the wilderness. They had to go through a time of transition. And that was not easy! And they wanted to turn back.
As Exodus 17:3 reminds us, “The people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and our livestock die?” Transition is never easy. It can often be hard, even grueling. I learned this when Pam was in labor with our first child, Zach. You see, Pam is a very quiet, shy, gentle person.
And when we got to the hospital to have Zach, everything was going really smoothly. She was having a few contractions, things were progressing nicely, and she was not experiencing much pain at all. I remember thinking, “This is going to be a piece of cake.” And then, it happened! Pam’s contractions started coming harder and faster and closer together.
And when they did my sweet, quiet, kind, gentle Pam looked up at me, and in a tone of voice that sounded like it came from The Exorcist said, “You did this to me! I’m going to kill you!” Now, I must have had a really shocked look on my face because the delivery nurse immediately patted me on the arm, and in a very calm voice said, “It’s okay honey. She’s just going through transition.”
“Transition?” I said, “What is transition?” “Oh”, she said, “transition is that point in labor when the baby is getting ready to come, the woman is in a lot of pain, and she’s not sure she can go on. This can cause her to get scared, angry and a little bit out of control.”
“A little out of control!” I said with concern, “My wife just told me she was going to kill me!”
Life’s transitions are not always easy. The scriptures say they can be hard, grueling, wilderness experiences that can cause us to feel scared, get angry and out of control. Just knowing that is a normal reaction can help us make our way through. That leads to the next thing our faith says about transition.
Namely, to manage life’s transitions our faith says we need to acknowledge our feelings of grief. You see, times of transition can be grueling, difficult and hard because, in reality, they are times of loss. Every transition we experience, even the good ones, involves letting go of the “familiar” and embracing the “unfamiliar.”
And anytime we have to let go of that which is familiar we experience feelings of sadness, loss and even despair. As one author says, “The transitions of life are really like little deaths. And the death of anything, whether it is a job or a relationship or our health or a phase of our lives with which we are comfortable leaves us with feelings of grief.”
I was recently talking with a friend whose daughter left for college last week. She said, “Morris, I can’t understand it. My daughter graduated from high school with honors. She’s gone off to a really great college. I’m so proud and excited for her. But all I seem to do is cry. What’s wrong with me?” I smiled and said, “Nothing! You’re just human. And you’re experiencing transition. You’re letting go of the familiar. And when we let go of that which is familiar, even for good reasons, we experience feelings of grief. So, go ahead and cry. To ignore or bury those feelings is unhealthy. Instead, you need to be honest about the feelings you are having. And continue to express them in healthy ways.”
Jesus once put it this way. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In other words, acknowledging and expressing our grief is a part of managing life’s transitions. When we allow ourselves to do that, we discover that even in the midst of the transition we can begin to experience a deep sense of comfort and peace.
Fourth, to manage transition well our faith says we need to keep a good attitude. If we are going to manage transitional times in life, we need to do what Paul says to do in Philippians 4. He says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is good, pure, lovely and praiseworthy.” Paul says, “Keep your mind fixed on those things.”
In other words, in the midst of transition we need to try to have a good attitude, focus on the positive, and even look at transition as an adventure on which we have the opportunity to experience life in a new way. If we can do that, we can move through the difficulty and grief of transition and accomplish things we never dreamed we could accomplish.
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when I was watching Jordan Spieth in final round of The British Open. On the 13th hole, Spieth hit his drive deep into the bumpy gorse. It looked like the shot would cost him the tournament. But, he didn’t give up! Instead, he stayed positive, considered his options, and took a drop on the driving range. From there he hit a blind shot the close to the green, from where he got up and down. He then went on to play the final 4 holes in 5 under par to win the third major tournament of his career. After the win, a reporter asked Spieth what was going through his head on the 13th. He said, “I knew I’d hit a really poor shot that put me in a very difficult place. But I also knew I couldn’t worry about it. Instead I needed to keep a positive attitude and focus on what I could do from the position I was in. I knew that if I did that, I could find a way through and give myself a chance to win!”
Listen, if we are going to manage life’s transitions well we need to be like Jordan Spieth. We need to be like Paul.
Instead of going negative and focusing on the difficult place we find our self in, we need to stay positive. We need to have a good attitude. We need to look for, focus on, emphasize that which is good, pure, hopeful, and life giving in the midst of our situation. We need to be people with good positive attitudes! It’s the only way to make it through.
Fifth, to manage life’s transitions our faith says we need a supportive group of people. You see, sometimes when we go through transitions we want to isolate ourselves from others. But, that is a huge mistake. If we are going to manage life’s transitions, we need a group of people to support and encourage us during the transitional times of our lives.
There is a story about a farmer who needed to relocate his barn about 100 feet from where it stood because of a road that was going through. He thought that the only way to move the building was to dismantle and rebuild it on the new site. One day the farmer was telling his neighbor how he dreaded the task. Suddenly, the neighbor had a great idea.
He said, “Meet me by the barn on Saturday morning.” Well, Saturday morning came, and when the farmer showed up, the whole community was there. Under the leadership of the farmer’s neighbor, they used jacks to get the barn up off its foundation. Then they joined together, picked up barn up and carried it the 100 feet to its new location.
Listen, when you and I go through transition in our lives, we need to be like that farmer. We need to surround ourselves with a group of people, like the people at this church – a group of people who can surround us and encourage us and remind us that we are not alone. As Paul says in Galatians 6:1 says, we need to “Bear one another’s burdens.”
Okay, one more thing; to manage life’s transitions well our faith says we must rely on GOD. When transitions take place in our lives it can sometimes be overwhelming. In fact, they can make us feel incredibly out of control. But, as people of faith, we know that in those times, when we feel overwhelmed, we have an incredible resource available to us.
We know that in those times, we have available to us a resource that will help us through. That resource, of course, is God. The Psalmist put it so beautifully, didn’t he? In Psalm 46, to those in the midst of transition, the psalmist says, “Remember, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, do not fear! Though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Jesus put it another way in John 14. On the night before his own death, as he was preparing his disciples to transition to life without his physical presence he said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled! Don’t be overwhelmed! Trust God! Trust me!”
Both the psalmist and Jesus remind us that as difficult as transitions may be, there is no transition we will experience in this life where God will not be with us! There is no transition we can experience in this life in which God does not promise to give us the help we need to get through, if we’ll trust God!
I love the story of the little girl who was going door-to-door collecting money for world hunger. She knocked on the door of one house and a man answered. In a rather gruff voice, the man said, “What do you want?” The little girl said, “Well, sir, I’m raising a million dollars to feed the hungry.” “You’re raising a million dollars to feed the hungry,” the man said.“Are you doing it all by yourself?”
“Heck no!” the little girl replied, “My big brother is helping me!”
I love that story because it reminds us that when we face transitions in life, we don’t face them alone. Instead, we have One who’s even better than a big brother! We have a God who promises to help us, give us the strength we need to get through!
So, I don’t know what kind of transition you may be facing in your life right now, but here’s what I do know! When it comes to transition - our faith has an app that can help us manage it well. If we’ll understand that transition is a given in life. If we’ll realize that it can be grueling. If we’ll honestly express our grief. If we’ll keep a good attitude. If we’ll surround our self with a supportive group of people. And, if we’ll trust God.
There is no transition life we cannot manage well! Let’s pray. Loving God, as we face the transition of our lives we pray that you would help us apply the wisdom of our faith! For we know that when we do this we can manage the transitions of our lives well. Amen!
How would you describe business in your life?
How do you think culture has influenced the pace of your life?
What is one practice Jesus used that can help you find balance?