Third Sunday in Lent

Letting Go of Control

Matthew 19:16-26

Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what God tells you.”

The man asked, “What in particular?”

Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”

“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”

The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
Today we are letting go of control.  Much easier said than done.  As I prepare for this morning’s worship, I start thinking about all the ways that I want to have control of the outcome…things should be just so, my sermon should be just so, the set up…just so…the people hopefully in a worshipful time of life…the coffee just so…there will be a youtube video at 10 (Oh Lord, help me now!). And the list goes on.

This is a natural course of thinking for those of us leading worship on a Sunday morning.  We all have our parts to play and yet what is the worst that could happen?  Many times we start to feel as though we need to be in control because of the fear of what might happen. 

And then there are reasonable fears in our world about which we really don’t have any control…earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.  Where does that leave us?

Again, I was re reading this book that I will be presenting at a book study for clergy called, “This Odd and Wondrous Calling” and Martin Coopenhaven reminds met yet again that its not about me.  She reminds the pastor that sometimes we get caught up in the praise that comes with doing our jobs well. The clergy role is so vulnerable to critique that we might get excited with praise but then we forget that if it’s not directed at God, we have missed the point.  Our goal is to give up enough control to let God be praised, not us.  Again, easier said than done.

This is hard for all of us…to let go enough to let God in and have some space to dance around.  If we can open up the space enough that God is felt where we are, we have accomplished the even better goal.  That is what Jesus is saying in Matthew this morning.  Wealth was in the way…can’t do it all by yourself.  But with God, we have a chance to feel it and it may not be under our control.  This is a popular prayer and a useful prayer but let’s remember it this morning…

The Serenity Prayer
Path God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.




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