Dealing With Change

October 13, 2015
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Proverbs 22:28a – Remove not the ancient landmark. (RSV)

I recall preaching on the above verse at the anniversary of a church that had closed years and years before. Each year, there was an anniversary service to honour the prairie pioneers who had built the church and built up the faith in the community. It was obvious to me that the people took today's verse literally. No one wanted to tear down the old building.

The tearing down of buildings is one thing, but in worship and church life, we have torn down many things. One of the things that we have torn down is "story time". I was pleased to receive word that Calvin Reid's book, Birdlife in Wington is being republished. It has been out of print for a number of years, and yet, this book is for me one of my ancient landmarks. All the stories are good, and the one that keeps me laughing is about the church usher leading a couple to a pew. Arriving at the spot where the usher wants the couple to be seated, he turns around, only to discover that the couple had ducked into a pew near the back of the church.

My stories were never as good as Rev. Reid's; however, I tried. One day, I took five sweet potatoes and dressed and gave each one a name and a story. Present in church that day were Mrs. Common Tater; Mr. Spec Tater, Miss Mash Tater, Mrs. Emmy Tater, and the Rev. Mr. Po Tater.

Another Sunday we were introduced to the song, Magic Penny, which tells us that "Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more." I went among the congregation gathering pennies, and at the right time of "Lend it, spend it", I threw them all onto the floor. The noise was awesome!

Forty years later, I am still asked for copies of those two stories.

The memories of ancient landmarks built by relationships and experience can never be removed. However, the removal of those ancient landmarks into which we have invested our energy, money, talents, and congregational experiences do hurt.

I lived through a church fire. I recall looking at the ruins of the church hall and recalling the many times when we had gathered in the hall for games, dinners, receptions, celebrations, plays, conventions, even meetings of presbytery. It was a time to grieve, to accept, and to re-invest.

More recently, I journeyed with a congregation that closed its doors after fifty years. The membership joined a sister congregation, and while it hurts to see the old landmark remade into something new and useful, the membership is living out these words:

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (RSV)

In such circumstances, we will find God's grace to help us … just when we need it.

Together, we pray: Gracious God, we thank You for humour, for in it, we see ourselves. When we are in the process of seeing things that we treasure being removed, may Your grace meet our every need. Amen.

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Richard Worden <>
Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thanks for sharing Richard.

    Great devotional, thank you.

    Loved your story about the Tater family! Thanks for sharing and pointing us to the things that we need to remember, things that matter. Blessings.

    Thank you for today’s devotional Rev. Worden. I’m sure your creativity and humour have been/are enjoyed by all generations in your congregation.
    May we hear more from you.

    I would love to have a copy of those two stories I think I have heard the potato one as February is potato drive month in Kitchener Waterloo and area that the House of Friendship and the food bank feed.

    Good morning, I receive the “Presbyterian Devotional” each day and I was interested in your “story time” with the 5 sweet potatoes. I’d like to share the story with our congregation during “children’s time”.
    Thanking you in advance,

    Well it was indeed a pleasure to read your devotion.
    I have a preschool and assist in our Church’s Sunday school.
    It would be an honor to share that with our children and even the teachers.
    Thanking you in advance.
    God bless
    (Trinidad W.I)

    I think most of us who read these devotionals can relate to the content of your story. I know I have used the Tater story several times, and will continue to use it as it will always be a good application so long as potatoes are around. So some things will always be up to date.
    Your devotional brought to mind an old TV program called seems Like Yesterday.
    SO we retain and continue to use the time proven methods of glorifying God and let the rest live on in our memories.

    Our problem at our church has for a long time been that the refusal to tear down the old has nearly turned into worship of those things. That has prevented us from accepting the new. It reminds me of the adage, “to change isn’t necessarily to improve, but to improve always requires change”. I guess it’s the difference between respecting our roots and revering them.
    I recall Bird Life in Wington very well – I don’t know how it affected our kids, but we loved the stories!
    It was great to hear your voice in this message, and to recall you sharing your wisdom and theology.

    Thank you Richard Warden for a heart-felt devotional. It opens sensitive feelings.
    There is only a black plaque with white lettering on it where the church of my childhood formerly sat.
    But still “Our God Reigns.”
    I have for years gone to a church of a different denomination. And I have been picked up by a neighbor the past three Sundays to attend “her” church because I have not been driving recently. I hope to get back under the wheel before “the snow flies.”
    May God bless you to witness again in future devotions.

    Dear Richard,
    I was touched by the thought for today. There is a time for everything. I love storytellers. It is not so much the story as much as it is the telling of the story.
    Today we are brought up in world of success is everything, it is sometimes tough to see things decline. However, like our lives, we are designed, apparently, to face seasons both in the world and in ourselves but our God is faithful and never-changing. He alone is the one constant that we can rely on and rejoice in.
    His ways are not necessarily our ways, or choices, all we can do is to place ourselves and our communities into His loving care and act and pray for them the best we can.
    I am reminded of a pastor in the Falklands who spent thirty years sowing seeds only to see no fruit in his service. However, his successor reaped the harvest of all his hard work and faithfulness. To God be the glory great things He has done, is doing, and has yet to do.

    So many ways of change as we age. Thank you for this note.

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