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“Bring Back the Rotary Phone?” Acts 13:42-52 Key verse(s): 50:“But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.”


There are three things you can do in life when confronted by change. You can examine the change, judge its merits and incorporate it into your life. You can, upon that same examination, deem it unworthy or foolhardy and courageously push it out of your way. And, finally, motivated by fear, you can pull over to the side of the road and let it rush past you. The first and second alternatives feed on courage. The latter feeds on your fears.


Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a “thing” about telephones. I grew up in a day and age when phones were something that were either mounted solidly on the kitchen wall or sat boldly on your father’s desk. In either case, they had rotary dials and not buttons. Telephones were heavy, so if you dropped them on your foot you knew it. They had cords that connected the receiver to the base. They were not portable. If you wanted to make a phone call you had to go to one of these two places. You asked to use the phone and, permission given, you placed the call after carefully dialing the number. That is, of course, if the neighbor was not on the line before you. If the phone rang you knew exactly where it was ringing from since it had to be either on the kitchen wall or on Dad’s desk. You did not need to search for the source of the ringing since there was no need to worry about a misplaced receiver. So connected, they were always there, ready to be picked up and answered.


Since those wonderful days of Bell Telephone so many years ago, many things have changed. Bell is no longer Bell. Phones are light-weight; that wonderful dial has been replaced with buttons, and receivers are no longer connected to the base unit. These modern times find us wandering around the entire inside of our homes as well as the outside with a wireless receiver. There is no longer the need to worry about “party” lines or if you knew the exchange number before your called. Everything is programmed in and, with only the touch of a finger to a button, your call is sent instantly around the world. Add cell phones and internet calling to the mix, and you’ve got a picture of change probably unequalled in our society by any other technology over the last forty years. But, as mentioned, I have a “thing” about phones. When they ring I can’t find the receiver. When I want to make a call my finger tips are too large and I hit the wrong buttons. And, worst of all, they are no longer devices for which you ask permission to use. Now they are deemed as much a part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as breathing and going to the bathroom. I lament the passage of time and the changes in phone technology to that extant. I often find myself yearning for the days when phones were heavy, a privilege to use, stayed in one place and you seldom misdialed. Yet, as my children have informed me so often, those days are gone and I just need to adapt to the change. All my complaining won’t bring back the rotary phone. Besides, despite the inconvenience of the convenience, modern communication has been enhanced by these sometimes inconvenient enhancements.


When changes come, especially those which demonstrate “inconvenience” even hardship, it is hard to embrace them. We want to shut our minds to them because our security is threatened. The “pattern” and habit of our lives is a comfortable thing and when this is threatened, we often react blindly and without thought. From time to time I have threatened to install an old rotary phone in our house. But, after some thought, I knew this would be foolish. The day of the rotary phone is past and I need to move on. I recall reading about a group of Amish folk who pulled up stakes and moved their entire community to Peru. When asked why they were taking such a drastic measure, they responded that “We got tired of having to move our wagons to the side of the road to let the cars go by.” When presented with change, they pulled over refusing to take a stand one way or the other. Sometimes that’s the easiest way to go because changes that confront the very purpose of who we are and what we do are the most difficult ones to handle. We simply don’t want to be wrong, so we pull over to the side of the road and let the challenge pass. This is what the Jews in Antioch were confronted with. Paul and Barnabas challenged their beliefs and they, finding great comfort in those beliefs, refused to accept the need to change to something with more promise and greater hope. They pulled their wagons over and let the teachings of Paul and Barnabas pass by hoping that the whole thing would simply go away. When it comes to changing our lives for the better and removing those bad habits that are comfortable, it is never wise to pull our wagons over to the side of the road.

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