March 31, 2019 — Rev. Paula Norbert
“And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and God knows that you need them. Instead, strive for God’s kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In our reading today from Luke, we hear these lovely words of Jesus, “do not keep worrying; do not be afraid; strive for God’s kingdom…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” How impossible it is for so many of us to let go of the habits of worry, the deep-rooted fears that we carry at different times in our lives. We must be reminded again and again to focus on the really important things of life: the important relationships in our lives, love, kindness, the blessings we have, and our faith. Jesus’ words echo the themes of these days of Lent, inviting us to let go of the burdens that weigh us down, to let go of our need to measure up or succeed in a world of much competition. We carry so many expectations, some from our youth and some which are reinforced at work or in the media and these are indeed heavy burdens that may weigh us down. How might we lighten the load? Spring is a great time to clear the clutter, to unburden our selves of the items we have accumulated over time. It is also a perfect time to let go of the ‘shoulds’ in our lives, the voices we hear whispering in our ears that sometimes tell us we are not enough. How might we create the space to flourish in the ways that God intends? How might we also minimize our possessions so that they do not posses us? Let us pray, O God of all good things, we thank you for this day; we thank you for these moments to be in Your presence. Help us in our task of letting go, of letting go of thoughts that clutter our minds, of expectations that leave us feeling diminished, of things that take up space in our days and in our lives. We ask this always in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A brief story… Two traveling monks reached a river where they met an attractive young woman waiting to cross. Wary of the current, she asked if they would be willing to carry her. One of the monks hesitated, but the other promptly picked her up into his arms, transported her across the river, and put her down, safely on the other bank. She thanked him and went on her way. As the monks walked toward the monastery, one brooded, stewing in the toxic elixir of self-righteousness and envy. After an hour, unable to hold his silence, he spoke. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked her up in your arms, held her very close and carried her!” “Brother,” the second monk replied, “That is all true. But on the other side of the river I set her down. It sounds to me as if you are still carrying her.” (Terry Hershey, Sabbath Moments) How often have we ourselves continued to carry some troubling experience, some kind of worry, long after it has happened?
I recall years ago a story of a couple I knew, the husband was a colleague of mine and he worked with a pretty unhealthy director in his department. There were countless stories of the ways in which his boss, Ted, subtly wreaked havoc with those with whom he worked and especially with my friend. At a certain point, they told the story of how every night at dinner, my colleague Evan would bring another new story home of upset that day. Finally, his wife said to him, “I feel like your boss is joining us for dinner every night. I just can’t have him here at our dinner table. I know you need to process, but is this really helping because it causes upset all over again during a time when we are meant to relax and enjoy each other’s company.” It was a great point. Needless to say, my friend ended up leaving that job for another, brighter and healthier experience in the months that followed.
Sometimes, other people who cause us hurt or cause pain to someone we love invade our psychic space. At other times, we may compare ourselves to others, to siblings or friends who seem to have their lives so much more together than we do OR we may compare our financial status or professional accomplishments at a certain point in our career to others and internalize some negative idea that we just don’t measure up. It’s a heavy burden, isn’t it? The human mind is a beautiful thing, but it can also recycle negative patterns of thinking or painful experiences that we just carry around with us endlessly. What is one to do?
We know there are many amazing professionals who help people with these kinds of things… counselors and therapists and life coaches, but sometimes, it takes a higher power, the work of grace in our life to finally and ultimately let go. The Serenity Prayer has been recited millions of times by those who have sought help with addictions. When people feel they have no where else to turn, inviting God into this journey, asking God to help carry our loads, that may well be where the answers lie.
We can choose to practice habits that help clear our minds and we can choose to let go of the possessions in our lives that often get in the way of healthy living. It’s not an easy task, the intention of letting go of the thoughts that too often weigh us down can lead us to a place of greater freedom, to a lightening of the spirit, to a place of peace and acceptance.
The writer Terry Hershey writes that we can be (every single one of us) owned or possessed by the things we carry. We live with an absorbed willful blindness, seeing only what we want to see, and our spirit is often tied up into knots. Our spirit is like the teacup. Overflowing. And all we wanted was guidance. We just didn’t expect that it would involve making space. “You need me to let go of what?” Let go of multi-tasking or distraction. “ Clearly there are things we carry in our hearts and minds that bring us joy and delight, and perhaps few things that bring regret; however too many of us carry painful memories of us with us over the course of our lifetimes. Too many of us bring difficult people from our day home to our dinner table or into our dreams each night. And, far too many people carry the weight of unrealized expectations from our parents or others in our lives and we continue to internalize a negative message about ourselves.
Maybe that’s the burden we carry: the idea that we are to be somebody besides who we are, that our value is conditional and is based in some need to measure up or impress others. But we can let go, we are invited to let go of the things we carry, whether they be all of the things that clutter our lives or those things that just don’t bring us joy. And, we are invited to let go of the things that have passed, the things we can not control and never could. We are invited to lay down our burdens and make room for the sunlight and hope, the promise that is Easter, the promise that is spring. New things, beautiful things are seeking room in our hearts and in our souls, if we can just clear the space and allow them to enter.
And so as we draw closer to the joy of Easter, let’s support one another in our spring clearing. Let’s clear the clutter from our homes and clear the clutter from our minds. If we seek this as an intention, let’s invite God into this cleaning, asking for the strength and the belief that we can finally let go of these things that we have carried for far too long. Amen.