Sermon Text: Control
Start with a story...that’s a good plan for a summertime sermon.
Once upon a time, there was an old man on the island of Crete. He loved that Mediterranean island with all his heart. When he was on his deathbed, he had his sons carry him outside and put him down on his beloved land. Just as he was about to take his last breath, he clutched some soil in his right hand.
And the next moment, he was before the gate of heaven. God came out to greet him. God looked like a white-bearded man. “Welcome,” God said,” come into the joys of heaven!” As the old man started through the gate, God said, “Please...you must let the soil go.” The old man stepped back and said, “Never! Never!” God went sadly into heaven, leaving the old man outside the gate.
A long time went by. God came out again. This time, God looked just like an old drinking buddy from the man’s youth. They had a few drinks together, and told some old stories and jokes. Then God said, “All right, old friend, now it’s time to enter heaven. Let’s go.” They started for the gate. But once again, God requested the old man to let go of the soil Once more the old man refused, and stayed outside.
An even longer time went by. God came out again. This time, God looked like a sweet and playful granddaughter. “Oh, Grandpa, you’re so wonderful! And we all miss you Please come inside with me!” The old man nodded, and she helped him get up.
By this time, standing outside the gate of heaven for so long, the man’s hands had become very weak and gnarled. His right hand still held the soil from his beloved Crete, but he had to prop it up with his left hand. They moved toward the gate of heaven.
Finally, the old man’s strength gave out. His gnarled fingers could no longer stay clenched in a fist. The soil from his homeland sifted out between his fingers. And then his hands were empty. The little girl who was God took his hand and led him into heaven.
The first thing he saw was his beloved island.
What do we cling to?
What do we clutch?
Is it worth it?
Seems to me we cling to the idea that we are in control. We clutch the desire to be in charge. But we are not.
Stuff happens that we cannot control or change. We need to learn to let go, like the old man finally did. We need to loosen our grip.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a wise slogan: “Let go and let God.” My daughter the baby Buddha has told me, “Daddy, let it go...go with the flow.” And in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, we say, “Thy will be done.” Not my will, but your will. Jesus prayed that prayer himself in a garden as he faced death.
Today, Luke tells us, Jesus gets a welcome in the home of Martha. When we picture this story, we should think of Jesus sitting down on a stool or bench or a chair. He was teaching as a rabbi, and that’s how rabbis taught back then — sitting down. There are other places in the Gospels which say something like “the people gathered around, and Jesus sat down and taught them.”
So we see Jesus sitting down, and Mary sitting on the floor, at his feet, listening. And when Martha comes in, all flustered, the text says that she stands in front of him.
So you’ve got Mary sitting on the floor, Jesus sitting on a stool or bench or chair, and Martha towering over both of them, probably with her hands on her hips.
Jesus loves Martha, but you can see how he wants her to change a bit. She thinks she is in charge. She believes she is in control.
Listen to what she says: “Lord, don’t you care that MY sister has left ME to do all the work by MYSELF? Tell her to come and help ME.” Can you hear it? “My...me...myself..
..me.” This is a control-freak.
And I can’t look down on her, because I am one, too. I’m working on it. I hope I am a recovering control freak. But I have a long way to go...just ask Paula.
I need to keep saying some words over and over: Thy will be done...Let go and let God...Let it go, go with the flow.
I might as well learn:
I’m really not in charge.
I’m really not in control.
And neither are you.
If we can learn the lesson, we’ll win a jackpot: peace, contentment, and freedom.
I think it’s worth the effort.