Phew! Summer is in full force around here. We celebrated Children’s Day last week and moved our worship to 9 am this week. I try to keep worship fairly simple in the summer … less announcements, shorter service, less special stuff, etc. … and try (although I went over 5 minutes today!) to keep the services to 45 minutes so people still have most of their Sunday to get stuff done.
Here is this morning’s sermon! I am experimenting with Podcasting this summer, so I’ve embedded the recording directly into this post. I really would love to eventually upload everything to a feed on iTunes, but I can’t seem to figure out how to do that yet. Maybe sometime this week! In the meantime … you can listen here.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
June 14, 2015
Let It Go And Trust The Process
I had my first golf lesson on Wednesday.
(I will let that image sink in for a second before I continue.)
Do you want to know what I learned at my first golf lesson? I have control issues.
Okay, okay, I actually learned a lot more than that. Bill Cute – who I promised a well-deserved glowing recommendation from the pulpit – had me setting myself up to hit the ball with the “GASH” process: Grip, Aim, Swing, Hit. Here is something else that I learned: Golf is not so much about hitting the ball as it is about swinging the club properly. And if you swing the club properly, then the ball just gets in the way and you hit it perfectly every single time.
Well … in theory, anyway.
But here is the problem that I kept running into. You see, in order to fully surrender yourself to this process, you really have to let go of your need to control yourself actually hitting the ball and just trust the process.
And apparently I have control issues.
So there I was, club in hand, trying to focus on “grip, aim, swing, hit” when I was distracted by the ball on the tee in front of me and suddenly the only thought in my head was, “Hit the ball.”
Hit the ball … hit the ball … hit the ball.
So I gripped … I aimed … I swung … and I … totally missed the ball.
When I sheepishly turned back to Bill and explained to him that all I had been thinking about hitting the ball he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’ve got to let it go.”
At which point I came **this close** to throwing my club in the air and breaking out into song.
Thankfully I was able to show some restraint.
You have got to let it go.
Boy did that give me something to think about this week.
This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel of Mark. It contains two parables: The Parable of the Growing Seed and the Parable of the Mustard Seed. I love these parables because they give us tangible and concrete imagery of the way that God works in our lives and in the world. We can think about growth that happens beneath the surface of our yards and gardens – especially this time of year – and then imagine the growth that God is nurturing in our lives, even if it is growth that we cannot quite see yet. We can look at a small mustard seed and then at the enormity of what it eventually grows into and think about – and believe in! – the ways that God can transform something small into something incredible.
Parables are designed to make us think. Jesus told parables not to literally compare the kingdom of God to one specific thing or another, but to express the unexplainable and transformative power of God in real and colorful and three-dimensional ways.
So what does God’s transformative power look like? How does God transform us? How does God transform our lives?
Two things came to me as I was thinking about these parables this week. First of all – we have to believe that transformation is possible.
Too often, we live our lives as though we are the mustard seed when God is actually calling us to live our lives as though we are the “greatest of all shrubs [that] puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” We tend to live our lives as though we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but – like the mustard seed – the potential for growth is actually within us from the very beginning. We have the ability to take root, to grow beneath the surface and to emerge as something great and powerful and purposeful.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about our world is that it is easy to live in it. It’s not; we all know this. Illnesses, tragedies and disasters disrupt our lives. Our culture holds us to unrealistic standards of materialism and perfection. Social media and 24-hour news sources force us to constantly compare ourselves and our lives to others. Many of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy and the fear of failure.
This is why we so often live as though we are the mustard seed. We feel small; we feel helpless; we feel lost. But do you know what? Our lives are far from meaningless. We are created, redeemed and sustained by a God who is constantly working in our lives. We need to live our lives believing that God’s power to nurture and grow and transform is already working within us.
God is nurturing some pretty incredible growth in each and every one of your lives.
We all have to believe that.
Do not think about a small mustard; think about the huge shrub that it grows into and then imagine the enormity of what God could do – what God WILL do – in your life.
I am not saying that you will become a big shrub; but I am saying that God has the ability to do something big and powerful in your life.
Which brings me to my second point.
Who is nurturing the growth in this parable?
The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.
Who is nurturing the growth in this parable? God? … or the sleepy and confused gardener?
I hate to break it to those of you who share my control issues, but if you really look at what Jesus is saying in these parables – God is the one who nurtures transformative growth within us, not us. We have to let go of our need to control our lives and let God work within us if we truly want to be who God created us to be.
I realize that this falls under the category of, “easier said than done.” We live in a world where we need food and shelter, where our bills need to be paid and where we all struggle to find balance.
But we need to let that stuff go.
God is always, always, always working beneath the surface of our lives and we have to believe that something powerful is happening and – even more so – we have to let go of our need to control every piece of our lives so that God can actually work within us.
Now I am absolutely NOT saying that we need to abandon our financial and parental and employment responsibilities. But I am saying that too often we get so caught up in our lives that 1. We do not allow ourselves to focus on what is really important and 2. We do not leave any room for God to actually work within us.
Think about it: I wanted – SO badly – to hit the golf ball on Wednesday afternoon, but when that was what I was focusing on, I usually failed. But when I let that go and trusted the process that I was learning, (most of the time) I hit the ball.
We need to trust God’s process.
I do not have a clever acronym for the process like Bill had for me at my golf lesson, but the concepts are pretty easy to remember. Let it go; ground yourself in your faith, come to church so that you can recharge week-after-week, get involved so you are part of something greater and accept the help and support of the people around you, especially in a community of faith. Trust in the promises that God made to you through the waters of baptism and feel nourished by the elements you receive when you gather around a table of new covenant.
And believe – really and truly believe – that you are being transformed into something powerful.
Like the Parable of the Growing Seed, our transformation may happen when we least expect it. But nothing is ever impossible with God.
So let it go and trust the process. Believe; believe in the unimaginable power of God’s love and believe that God’s power will transform your life.
Thanks be to God!