Pentecost 11A – Storms
Matthew 16:21-2 7
August 27-28, 2011
Chase was about 9 years old.
I don’t think he’d ever been in a church before — or any other place of worship.
He didn’t know that you’re not supposed to talk.
He didn’t know that you’re not supposed to ask questions.
He didn’t know that he was supposed to keep quiet about what he didn’t understand….
(When did we learn that nonsense?)
Anyway, it didn’t take long.
He came to chapel at Hoffman Homes one Thursday afternoon and looked around.
Immediately he noticed the gold banner hanging on a pole up front.
There was a cross on the banner. And there was Jesus on the cross.
Chase looked at the banner and asked his question,
“If we want to be a Christian, do we have to die on a cross?”
How does one explain the cross to a little boy?
How does one explain these words of Jesus,
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
The prospect of any loss is a frightening thing – even to an adult.
As Hurricane Irene continues up the coast, loss is a big fear.
Loss of property.
Loss of work.
Loss of money.
And yes, loss of life.
But for those of us who have not been in the direct line of the storm,
I think the biggest fear for us leading up to this weekend has been a different kind of loss.
It’s the loss of control.
We had an earthquake and a hurricane in one week –
and these forces of nature hit us squarely in the face with the reality
that we are most definitely not in control of things.
It is that loss – the loss of the perception that we are somehow in control – which scares us.
A friend of mine likes to say,
“When I’m queen of the world….such and such will happen.”
“When I’m queen of the world, there will be fewer commercials on TV.”
“When I’m queen of the world, gas will be no more than $2/gallon.”
“When I’m queen of the world, there will be no more hurricanes or earthquakes.”
…But she’s not queen of the world.
And we aren’t either.
Jesus says, “Lose your neatly planned-out life.
Let go of the notion that you are the one in charge.”
As we learned this week, an unexpected earthquake can happen in Gettysburg.
A hurricane can happen in Gettysburg.
A number of people have been posting on Facebook
that these storms are meant to be a message – a warning — sent from God.
I don’t believe that God sends a message through storms.
That line of thinking can be yet another way we try to control life –
– to hang on to the life we have and not lose it –
by thinking that if somehow we’re faithful enough,
if we’re prayerful enough, if we’re obedient enough,
hurricanes and earthquakes won’t happen to us.
Or on the other hand, we can think the reason New York was harder hit
was because the people of New York did something wrong,
and so in some way they deserved it.
And so we can make it so it won’t happen to us, right?
Control. Holding onto life as we know it.
I don’t believe that God sends storms.
Perhaps we’re more open to God when they occur, though.
Perhaps we pray more.
Perhaps we become more grateful.
Perhaps as we are shut up tight in our homes, with the power out, living by candlelight, we are opened to the fact that God is God and we are not.
Maybe this will be the storm which will help us let go
of the notion that we can control life.
Maybe Irene is the storm which helps us let our selves die.
Jesus says t here’s promise in death.
The promise is new life.
A new life lived for others rather than turned inward on ourselves.
As E.M.Forster wrote, “We must be willing to go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Death to our selves will lead to life in God.
Like many of you, I’m still learning this lesson.
I think I had the idea once…
When I was a child I knew I wasn’t the one in control.
I didn’t decide how often to clean my room
or when it was bedtime
or what was for dinner
(which is probably a good thing because we would have had macaroni and cheese every night!)
But something happened when I was a teenager…
I think it was around the same time I got my driver’s license –
I began to think that I was able to be in control of my life
I was given more choices; I began to take more responsibility
and I had the mistaken idea that it was time for me to take the steering wheel of my life
– and I haven’t yet fully given it back.
It takes weathering through a lot of storms in life I think,
before we finally let go of the wheel.
It takes living through a lot of things that happen beyond our control,
before we realize that we might as well as the bumper sticker says,
“Let go and let God.”
It takes experience to know that, “Those who save their life will lose it;
those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
(More experience than my nine year old friend Chase had at this point in life.)
So, how did I answer Chase?
What did I say to his question, “If we want to be a Christian,
do we have to die on a cross?”
First I’ll tell you how I answered…
and then I’ll tell you how I wish I had answered
(and maybe you’ll think about it this week and let me know how you would have answered him!).
I answered, “Oh no Chase…you don’t have to die on a cross…Jesus did that for you! Now sssshhh we’re starting the service!”
Here’s how I wish I answered, “Chase, Jesus wants you to live. Really live.
He wants you to live a most amazing life. An amazing life doesn’t mean that you’ll have all the best clothes and newest video games. An amazing life also doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you.
An amazing life is one in which you know Jesus loves you so deeply in your heart, that you begin to think less of yourself and your own life and the things that scare you and begin to care for others instead. In that way, you’ll die – but you’ll also live. …Now sssshhh we’re starting the service!”
This week there have been earthquakes and hurricanes.
Next week there will be storms and losses of all other kinds.
Let go and let God.
Let go and let God can work through you.