Summary: With things changing about us faster than we can imagine, we can remain the same --- strong and steady in Christ.
Remain In Christ John 8:31-36
In our elementary school chapel service last Sunday, I noted how attentive all the kids were when the object for the children’s message was a pumpkin. There is something about pumpkins that grabs our attention and keeps it. My wife suggests it’s because it only comes once a year; and I think she’s right.
How do we get people like ourselves to pay attention like that with other things – important, spiritual things like church or God’s word? Maybe that’s why some people choose to come to church just once or twice a year. It’s easier to pay attention. But now, I’m not advising that practice, believe me.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites people to pay attention to him --“If you hold to my teaching.” In another translation of the Bible, He uses the word “remain.” Remain in my word; or as the King James has is it: “abide in me.” Can we really do this?
I say that for the most part, things just don’t remain anymore as long as we’d like. There is just too much change -- too much technology. It’s hard to catch one’s breath and to sit and be still and remain or abide. We’ve got to be doing something; cell phone in hand, or TV remote, ears plugged with miniature headsets. This is the culture of restlessness; of not remaining long in any one place -- Multi tasking. We’re so mobile; and we eat on the run. I read a statistic the other day that said 55%- 65% of our meals are ‘fast food.’ So the whole concept of remaining long, lingering a while is foreign to us. Have you had the experience for example of watching a video – say a movie from the sixties or seventies for old times sake and recognizing, “boy this moves slow!” It doesn’t grip you and grab you and move you along with the action. You don’t have the patience to sit through it. We want things faster and faster.
But how important it is to be still and know him and that he is God and is in control of our lives and life itself. Jesus says, ‘remain in me.’ “Linger here in my love.” Jesus’ words to remain in him then are difficult words --because we’re not used to being still and remaining with and in him.
Yet around us there’s plenty of stuff staying right where it is, where it was, and where it will be the next time and the next time. I think for example of the Mennonite religion with their plain clothes, beards and cars or buggies. I wonder if their founder Menno Simmons didn’t take his first name from the Greek Word here for remain: ‘meno.’ But, even with our very modern way of living, things still seem to remain the same for us. We sometimes think --if only life were less monotonous. “Vanity of vanities” proclaims the writer of Ecclesiastes. “Everything is vanity -- Uselessness. The sun rises and the sun goes down. That which has been is what will be; that which is done is what will be done and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said:” ‘see, this is new?’ he writes.
And yet people, including ourselves resist things that are new. We stay the same. But Jesus spoke of remaining, not of being stuck. There’s a difference. Being stuck causes problems for others --like that balled up piece of chewing gum I shoved out of the way of a sidewalk with the side of my shoe one morning before the sun would warm it, and soften it, and someone else would step in it, and get stuck. Stuck things need to be moved so people can move freely.