Doing our children’s moment we talked about Despicable Me and how Margo had to be willing to let go and trust in Gru and how sometimes we need to let go of our hurt and fear and frustration to trust in God that things will be alright.
When I was growing up, our garage was filled with everything BUT cars.
To be fair, we did have one car in our two-car garage. But the other spot was reserved for many other things. Like a 100-gallon fish tank. Not that we used it. Instead it made a great container for boxes, papers, and other items that could no longer fit on the floor. My dad in particular was notorious for keeping items around far longer than their usefulness. For about two decades, we had an empty television cabinet in our garage next to the workbench. I mean one of those old huge wooden television cabinets. No TV. Just an empty cabinet. He used to say, “Well, you never know when you might need it.” And he was right. It made a great storage place for extra tools, fishing gear, and whatever else you could think of. But as a TV stand? It probably outlived its usefulness back in the 70’s. That was kind of my dad’s reasoning for keeping lots of things. “What if?” I guess I should be grateful. He kept me around too for probably the same reason.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go.
Even when we know something is not worth keeping or that we’ll likely never use it again, we get attached to it. We’ll play our own version of the “What if?” game. About clothes we ask, “What if it comes back in style?” About old toys we say to ourselves, “What if our child wants these when they get older?” About girlfriends or boyfriends we hope, “What if they really mean it this time?” We’re good at playing that game. But there comes a time when we need to let things go. People, things, ideas. There comes a time when holding on to something is counterproductive. When holding on to the past is simply holding us back. When holding on to the past is simply holding us back. We need to let go.
When we hear today’s story from the Bible I want you to keep this in mind.
Because it’s a message that applies to our church life as much as it does in our personal lives. There are things we hold on to – people, things, ideas – we need to let go of because they are holding us back. Jesus explores this with us in the story of the sending of the disciples. If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, please go to Matthew 10:9-15. Matthew 10:9-15. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, this happens right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, he’s just recruited Matthew to be one of his followers and he’s about to send out the twelve for the first time. Jesus has told them to go among the Jews and to share the Gospel with them. On this first outing, he wants to share the good news of salvation with the people most likely to be receptive to his message. He gave them incredible abilities to minister to the people including healing the sick and even raising the dead. But then he adds these words.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Shake the dust off your feet and move on.
Jesus told Matthew and the other apostles that if people didn’t listen to them they were supposed to shake the dust off their feet and move on. Now, some people read these words and think Jesus was telling them to turn their backs on these people. Almost as if he was saying they should insult them, like spitting on the ground in front of them to show they weren’t worth your time. “Shake the dust off your feet.” There have even been people who have taken this passage literally. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, told his followers that God told him to do this very same thing and people would do it. A year later, he printed a retraction saying not to do it in front of them in case it provoked people. And of course it would provoke people. Just look at baseball managers who kick the dust up right in front of the umpire – and then promptly get kicked out. Of course it would provoke people – if Jesus meant it that way. But I don’t believe he does. If you isolate just that one sentence, you might be able to read it that way, but look at in the context of the entire passage. Jesus tells them not to take any money, no suitcase, no extra clothes. He tells them not to plan ahead, not to make plans with the local inn, but find a house that seems suitable and ask if you can stay there. What he’s really doing is asking them to trust in God. What Jesus is asking the apostles to do is to trust in the work of God. If the people listen to you, they will be blessed. If not, shake the dust off your feet and move on. But he doesn’t mean that in an insulting way. Jesus isn’t telling the apostles to do that in front of them or TO them. He means it in the same way we tell someone to “shake it off” when they get hurt or fall down. He means to let go of what’s happened and trust in God. He’s telling them to let go of what’s happened and trust in God.
He’s telling us the same thing.
Whether it’s in our personal life or in the life of the church – we need to let go of the things that might hold us back and trust in God. At this juncture in our history, it would be easy for us to be held back by memories of the way it used to be instead of looking at the opportunities before us and see what God has in store for our people. It would be easy to feel defeated or forced into something we didn’t want to be a part of. But that’s not the case. It’s simply time for us to shake the dust off our feet and move on. It’s like Linus said in the comic strip for today, “This blanket absorbs all of my fears and frustrations. At the end of each day I shake it out the door, thus scattering those fears and frustrations to the wind! Tomorrow I start with a clean blanket.” We simply need to start off tomorrow and every day with a clean blanket. God is waiting to absorb all of our fears and frustrations if we really let them go and trust in Him to take care of us. Sometimes I think we sit there and wonder if God really understands our situation. Or maybe we are afraid that God’s solution to our problems isn’t our solution. But either way, it’s a matter of trust.
And in every instance of trust, there is an element of faith.
In every instance of trust, there is an element of faith. When I was a kid, I remember my dad helping me learn how to ride a bike. I had this orange bicycle with a white banana seat on it and originally it had these high handlebars sort of like a Harley motorcycle. It was my first bike ever and I had been riding it for a while with training wheels and felt pretty confident. My dad decided to take them off and help me learn to ride without them. We started at the top of our driveway, which had a slight slope. It wasn’t a huge slope, but enough to help me gain some speed, or so I’m sure my dad thought. Apparently not fast enough. I fell off right away. Our driveway at the time was made of asphalt and it ripped my knee up. It was bleeding pretty bad. Not enough to need stitches but enough to leave a scar I still have today. I went in the house and got it cleaned up and my dad had me go out there again. Probably the best thing he could have done. I got back on that bike and rode down the driveway once more and never looked back. I had faith that I could do it. Even though the evidence showed me I could get hurt, I had faith I could do it and sure enough I did.
That’s what God wants us to do.
He wants us to shake it off and keep going. Because to do otherwise will hold us back from the vision God has for our lives and our ministry. We often know the things we need to do to move us past that hump. We just need the courage to do it. Which isn’t to say that by doing these things, everything will work out as WE planned. It is to say that when we give it up to God, we are opening up the possibility that things will work out as HE planned. Moving forward doesn’t meant everything will work out as WE planned, but opens up the possibility to work out as HE planned.
Today, I’m happy to report that 100-gallon fish tank is no longer there.
Neither is the old television cabinet. Somehow, my dad finally decided to let it go and the garage looks a whole lot better. He still has quite a bit of stuff in there, there’s still work to do, but there has been definite progress. I’m hoping we can take the steps that we need both in our churches and in our lives to leave the past behind and into a brighter future. This week, I want you to pray about the things we might need to let go of to move forward in ministry. What might be the things we need to give up? What challenges do we have that might be holding us back? And not just in the life of our churches, but in our everyday lives as well. Are there issues we have with our spouses that we could learn to let go of so that we could be happier? Are there things that our kids do that bother us that we need to let slide? Sometimes we just have to trust in God that it will work out. Let’s shake out our blankets this week. Let’s go to God and learn to lay down our fears and our frustrations like Linus did and start the day with a new blanket. If you would bow your heads in prayer.
Father God, we lay down before you our fears and our frustrations. In the quiet spaces of the next few moments, we silently share with you those things that are on our hearts that might prevent us from moving forward in our lives and in our church. (pause for quiet reflection) God of us all, we know you already can see into the innermost depths of our soul. You know better than we do what it is that holds us back. We pray that you will give us the strength, wisdom, and courage to move past those things and attain the life you have in store for us. We lift this up to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.