January 26, 2014: Having Faith When You Need to Move On

Posted on : Jan 23rd, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

In 12-step groups there is a saying, “Let Go and Let God.”  The saying has two meanings.  One is “to stop trying to control the things you don’t control in the first place and instead, trust God.”  The other is “you have to let go of the past to let God lead you into the future.”  Those are great words of wisdom for all of us.

A lot of us reach a point in our lives where we want to move on, but can’t let go of all the stuff we carry with us from our past.  I specifically remember a conversation I had many years ago with Jim, one of the leading couples/relationship therapists in the LA area.  One of the things we were discussing was what he called the “healthy ending of relationships.”  He said, “One of the big problems we have is we don’t end one relationship before entering the next.  Everyone always wants to break up and still be friends.  When you do that, you just bring all the problems and baggage from one relationship into the next.  I always advise couples to make a clean break.  Let go of the past.  Then you’ll be able to move into the future.  It may turn out that down the road you do become friends; but if you’re breaking up in the first place, you’re probably not going to be friends.”

Over the years I’ve found Jim’s advice to be right on.  It also gave me great insight into a teaching from Jesus – which I never fully understood.  In both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke there is a story about those who said they wanted to follow Jesus but weren’t quite ready to do that.   In the Gospel of Luke the story is told like this:

To another traveler Jesus said, “Follow me.”

The traveler replied, “Let me bury my father first.”

Jesus said in return, “Let the dead bury their dead; you go and proclaim the reign of God everywhere.”

Now, at face value, it is rather crass – uncaring – even harsh of Jesus to tell the person he can’t go and bury his own father!  Furthermore, to me it made absolutely no sense for Jesus to say, “Let the dead bury their dead.”  If you’re dead, you can’t bury anyone.  You’re dead, right?  So what is this story about?  One insight comes from the next portion of this story.  This time Jesus uses the example of farmers plowing their fields.  The story unfolds like this, “Yet another traveler approached Jesus in this way:  “I’ll be your follower, Teacher, but first let me say goodbye to my people at home.” And Jesus replies, “Whoever puts a hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.”

You see, the would-be follower who wanted to first bury his father isn’t ready to let go and move on.  His father had not yet died!  It could be years before his father died!  The traveler had not let go of his parental attachment to his past.  He was not able to make choices for himself because he was tied to his past.  And, we can guess from Jesus’ response that this person’s past was not a healthy past.  That’s what “leave the dead to bury their dead” means.

Addicts know more about unhealthy pasts than most of us.  A friend of mine once told me that as he was going through recovery, he realized he had to let go of all of his “old friends” because they were still using.  Staying with them was not healthy for him.  He had to move on.  But it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do in his life.

The same is true for us in many different ways.  It is hard to move on, especially when you’re carrying around the weight of the past.  It really helps to have faith when you need to move on.  That is our theme for this Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

Luke 9: 51-62

In a not-so-subtle teaching, Jesus says, “Leave the dead to bury their dead.”

As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken from this world, Jesus firmly resolved to proceed toward Jerusalem and sent messengers on ahead.  They entered a Samarian town to make preparations for him, but the Samaritans wouldn’t welcome Jesus because his destination was Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Rabbi, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and reprimanded them.  Then they set off for another town.

As they were making their way along, they met a fellow traveler who said to Jesus, “I’ll follow you where you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have burrows in the earth, the birds of the sky have nests, but the Chosen One has nowhere to call home.

To another traveler Jesus said, “Follow me.”

The traveler replied, “Let me bury my father first.”

Jesus said in return, “Let the dead bury their dead; you go and proclaim the reign of God everywhere.”

Yet another traveler approached Jesus in this way:  “I’ll be your follower, Teacher, but first let me say goodbye to my people at home.”

Jesus answered, “Whoever puts a hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.”

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