Giving Up Our Lives

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

March 17. 2013

“Giving Up Our Lives”

  Ezekiel 37:1-14;  John 11:1-16

 Israel had experienced joy and prosperity in their land. They had thought that this would go on forever, that they could celebrate and enjoy life. They could plan and do whatever they wanted. They were the people of God and believed they would be blessed forever; but then the Babylonians came.

 

Life as they knew it was gone. Captivity had occurred; perhaps God had forgotten them.But God took Ezekiel by the hand and showed him the nation could live again. Because the Valley of dry bones isn’t about an anatomy lesson…the toe bone, connected to the foot bone, etc …It’sthe last line of the song that’s important “hear the word of the Lord; because God is  about to do a  new thing. 

Then the lectionary gives us the  story of Lazarus. It probably seems like a strange passage to read this morning, especially if you  notice  the message is GIVING UP OUR LIVES Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. What in the world does that have to do with giving up our life; it doesn’t seem to fit.  When we  think the story is  just about physical life we miss the point.

 

During Lent our focus has been on looking inward to discover what is holding us back from experiencing   abundant life. Our goal should never be to just survive. We so often settle for that, but do  we remember Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.  And what Jesus meant that the same power that he demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus–and ultimately his own resurrection–is available for us today. The abundant life is measured not by the material wealth we accumulate or even our physical condition; it is rather measured by how much of God’s truth and purpose we allow to take root in our lives.

So each week we have been examining what is holding us back

Control

Expectations

The feeling of superiority.

Our inability to not even want to  love  ‘them’

Each week as we have been sensitive to the Spirit we have become aware of obstacles and we’ve been encouraged to move them aside.  As we  move closer to the cross. It is not easy to face the cross because we are not talking about the beautiful cross we have in front of us, reminding us of worship. Neither are we talking about the cross I wear today, the one many of you have around your neck or in your jewelry boxes, those crosses are easy to wear. The cross we are moving towards is the one Jesus talked about in the gospel of Mark the 8th chapter. Jesus is trying to prepare his followers for what will happen

He must suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law…he must be killed and after 3 days rise again.

AS  you go back and read the gospel passage in your devotional time, pay attention to that word MUST. It is a very strong word. 

 

But it is not easy to face the cross and Peter took him aside and you can almost see him waving his finger at Jesus, “Jesus, you can’t be talking like that. It’s not going to happen, especially not to you!” or he said something like that.

And Jesus said, “get behind me Satan

 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8: 34-35

 

This is our last stop on the journey and like  Peter, it’s difficult to hear these words about giving up our life . In Mark it says ‘Jesus spoke plainly as he talked to his followers’. The reason for that is so often Jesus spoke in parables, stories that invited persons in. Sometimes a story is an easier way for us to hear a difficult truth.  So this morning, taking a page from Jesus’ book, I’d like to   share a story

 

 Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

 

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With swoops of his shining axe, the first tree fell. “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” The first tree said.

 

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With swoops of his shining axe, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”

 

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

 

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake.

 

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. “I wish I could make a cradle for him.” her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful.” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

 

One evening a very tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

 

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

Giving up your life isn’t about literally dying, it’s about being willing to give up everything …your hopes and your dreams…it’s about  living with pain and uncertainty…it’s about knowing that God’s plan for us is so much better than any plan we can have for ourselves…it’s remembering  the journey is filled with twists and turns and we end up in places we would never expect; but there’s a promise  God will never leave us or forsake us.

Only when that truth has filtered deep into your being, not the words but the understanding of who is in control of our lives ; onlt then can we sing with integrity the words of that familiar hymn   “Have your Own Way, Lord