Let Go and Let God

Last Sunday, as we began our annual Giving Campaign, we spent some time reflecting on the way in which Jesus calls us as his disciple to let go. To let go of control. To let go of our attachments. To let go of our lives. Because the call to follow Jesus involves our willingness to move from a posture of fear, anxiety, and scarcity to a posture of freedom, surrender, and generosity. In other words, before we can really begin to grow in generosity and self-giving, before we can really begin to live into the vision that “all we are and all we have come from God,” we first have to be willing to let go. (And judging from all the donations that came into our Pennies for Heaven thrift store this past week you are all doing pretty good!) In all seriousness, you and I have been invited to be part of an amazing journey of discipleship. And that journey begins with opening our hands, opening our hearts, and letting go. 

But letting go is only the beginning. In fact, in many Christian circles there is a popular expression, “Let go and let God!” Which simply means letting go is what ultimately sets us free to more completely surrender and submit ourselves to God’s vision, to God’s mission, to God’s purpose for our lives and for the world. We open our hands and hearts trusting in God’s goodness, trusting in God’s grace, trusting in God’s abundant provision. Let go and let God! Now last Sunday we heard a story about how hard it can be to let go. This morning we hear a story about how hard it can be to let God. To surrender to God’s vision. To participate in God’s mission. To become all that God has created us to be. 

This morning, in our gospel reading, two brothers, James and John, come up to Jesus and they say, “Jesus, when it comes time for you to be seated in glory, we want to be seated with you in the highest possible places of honor, one at your right hand and one at your left.” Now maybe James and John are thinking back to the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus was flanked Moses and Elijah, and they’re thinking, “We want that to be us!” Or maybe they’re looking ahead, expecting that very soon, Jesus will in fact usher in the restored kingdom of Israel, and they want to be sure that they get in on the action. Whatever they’re motivations, James and John have clearly not yet fully understood the radical message of Jesus about this upside-down kingdom of God in which the first are last and the last are first. The kingdom in which those who try to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life will save it. The kingdom in which those who want to be great are actually called to become a servant of all. Jesus has been very clear about the countercultural nature of the kingdom of God, and yet the disciples are still holding on to an earthly vision of power, position, and privilege. Now, what is remarkable is that James and John have been with Jesus since the very beginning of his earthly ministry. They have seen it all. They have heard it all. They have been part of it all. And yet, they are still struggling to let go and let God. They are still struggling to fully surrender to God’s vision and purpose for their lives and for the world. 

My question for us this morning is, “Why?” Why do the disciples persist in resisting the vision of God’s reign that Jesus came to reveal? Why do they struggle so much to let go of what was in order to embrace what will beWhy is it so hard for the disciples to let go and let God? I believe the answer to that question is found not only in today’s gospel reading, but throughout the whole of the gospel story. Because over and over again, we find the disciples looking at their lives and the world around them from a human point of view. They are restrained by their own limited vision. They are confined by their own definition of what is possible. But Jesus comes along and says, “Let me show another way.”

For example, when the disciples were in the boat with the wind and waves crashing all around them, from their human point of view, all they saw was chaos. But Jesus said, let me show you the peace of God. When the disciples were on a hillside with thousands of people and only a few pieces of bread, from their human point of view, all they saw was insufficiency. But Jesus said, let me show you the abundance of God. When the disciples sat with Jesus as he inquired of them, “Who do you say that I am,” from their human point of view, they were imagining an earthly kingdom. But Jesus said, let me show you the dream of the kingdom of God. When the disciples were arguing and bickering amongst themselves about who is greatest, from their human point of view, they saw the potential for self-promotion. But Jesus said, let me show you the self-giving, sacrificial love of God. And then, on a Friday afternoon, when the disciples watched as the sky grew dark and Jesus hung on a cross, from a human point of view, they said, “It’s all over!” But God said, “Oh no, it’s only just begun!”

The disciples were setting their minds on human things, instead of the things of God. And as a result, they struggled to understand and grasp the vision of the kingdom of God. They struggled to believe that with God all things are possible. They struggled to “let go and let God.” My guess is that you and I can relate to that struggle. We see what’s happening in our world. We see what’s happening in our own lives. We see the very real challenges and obstacles that we face.  And as a result, there are times when it is hard to see the vision of God. It can be hard to trust and know that God is working all things for our good. It can be hard to step out in faith, to open our hands in love, freedom, and generosity. Yet those are precisely the moments when Jesus comes to us and says, “Let me show you another way!”

A few weeks ago, our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, preached a sermon to the House of Bishops. And in that sermon, Bishop Curry said that he believes the church is living in what he calls a narthex moment. Now the narthex, of course, is a transitional space, it’s an in-between space.  The narthex represents a spiritual threshold, a crossing over. In other words, the narthex is more than just the space where you have a cup of coffee and sign up for the next potluck supper. The narthex is the bridge between the church and the world. And so, if we are in narthex moment, we are being called to boldly cross the bridge, to be a part of God’s vision, to participate in God’s mission, to be all that God has created us to be. To open our hands. To open our hearts. To open our eyes to see God at work in the world around us. To let GO and let GOD.

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