July 5, 2009
Scripture: Mark 6:1-13
Sermon Title: “Unpack Your Bags”
Rev. George N. Miller
(This message is acted out with a slight country twang and scads of bags/luggage hanging from the body)
Oh. Hey! Good to see you. Thank you for coming to visit. I’d have come to you. But as you can see, I got too much baggage.
Lots o’ baggage: past and present. Trouble is, I’m so weighed down it doesn’t seem like I’m going to have much of a future.
Still, it’s my baggage. Don’t want to let any of it out of my sight.
I used to travel all the time when I was younger, back when my baggage was much smaller and way more lighter.
I would soar in the air, but it’s now impossible to pass through security with all this stuff.
Tried the good old American railways to travel sea to shiny sea, but the baggage took up too much room. Same thing with the bus. Except the weight of my baggage turned it from a Greyhound into a Tortoise.
Thought I could take all my baggage with me in the car, but wouldn’t you know: soon the rear window was blocked and the dashboard was covered and I couldn’t close the car door. Dang economy vehicles.
I know, I know. I know just what ya’ll thinking. Why don’t I just let go of some of my baggage?
But see, I can’t. It’s not that easy. Keeping my baggage close to me is what I do. It’s my thing.
Besides, I’ve done it for so long it would take an act of God for me not to have all these bags with me.
What’s in them you ask? Oh, stuff. Like this here: this is my bag of fond memories. Like the old toy castle I used to play with. Photo albums- see how young I looked. And books. Oh, I would read this one again and again.
You certainly can’t blame me for parting with any of this.
Now these bags: I call them my shoulda-coulda-woulda bags. Let’s see. Ah yes. I shoulda went to college. I shoulda asked Pat to the prom. I shoulda bought stock in Microsoft.
My coulda bag. I coulda been a doctor if I studied harder. I coulda been a pro-tennis player if I hadn’t hurt my knee. And I coulda been a millionaire if I had bought stock in Microsoft.
This here: my woulda bag. By now I woulda been a Dad if Sam and I had stayed together. I woulda been 20 pounds lighter if I just stuck to my diet. And I woulda been living in Beverly Hills if I’d just purchased that dang Microsoft stock.
And these here: my grievance bags. Like how I’m still mad that Chris told everyone back in high-school that I kissed like a jellyfish. Or that my sister borrowed my jersey as a nightgown and spilled nail polish all over it.
Here’s a good one. That Sunday, 15 years ago, when the pastor forgot my name so I refused to go back to church until he called to apologize. Which he never did.
As you can see, I have my baggage. I carry it around with me everywhere I go. But who doesn’t. I mean, you do right?
You know, memories of how good things were back in the day and how its too bad we’re not like that anymore. Like when Big Macs were served in Styrofoam containers and MTV only showed music videos.
I can’t be the only one with shoulda-woulda-coulda bags, am I?
What do you wish you shoulda done? What woulda you been? What coulda you done?
And let’s be honest: we hold grudges against folk, don’t we? Silly ones, big ones, under the surface ones?
I can’t be the only one. Although I’m so weighed down by my baggage that I just can’t seem to move forward at all.
So...for the longest while it’s just been me and my baggage. Not going anywhere. Spending a lot of time in the past. Not really enjoying the present.
Fortunately, with the age of infomercials and internet I don’t need to leave the house. I can order what I need by dialing 1-800 and if I choose chat with faceless folk on the computer.
One day, while nothing else was on, I turned on the TV and there was this preacher.
Like I said, it’s been ages since I last stepped foot inside a church. But the pastor on the TV seemed cool and there were lots of smiling faces, so I decided to listen, all my bags comfortably surrounding me.
And the preacher was talking about Mark 6:1-13, of how Jesus wasn’t that well respected in his home town. Folk didn’t take him seriously, claiming he was just a carpenter, and how they found him just a bit too much. So Jesus could only do some minor healings.
But then the next thing you know, Jesus is sending the disciples out 2 by 2, like them there animals on the ark, encouraging them to do God’s work and preach the word, and if folk didn’t want to hear it, well, they were to just shake the dust from off their feet.
Well, I kinda liked that. And I was a bit amazed. I mean, if I was Jesus, and I was humiliated like that in my own hometown, I’d have such a large bag filled with all the names of people who ticked me off. And I would certainly not have the energy to travel to a new place to do anything else.
But here is Jesus, letting their slights roll off his back like water to a duck, and he was able to move on and do what he needed to do.
And I had to ask myself “How he do that?”
So the preacher on the TV kept on talking about how the disciples were to travel without the basic necessities: no bread, no money, no extra clothes, no baggage.
No baggage? Just a tunic for their body, sandals for the feet and a staff to propel them forward. This was a way to teach them how to rely upon the Lord, and to also demonstrate how the Christian life is a life of simplicity.
Well I thought that was funny, considering the preacher was wearing an expensive looking suit talking to a stadium full of folk.
But something about the message resonated with me. Historically the scripture was saying one thing, but for me, metaphorical-like, it was saying a whole ‘notha thing. What I heard was Jesus saying “Let go.”
“Let go. If you want to move forward, if you want to experience life, you got to let go.”
I looked at my baggage, I looked at my life, all the things I had accumulated, all the things I held onto, all the junk I was refusing to let go.
And I heard the Savior say “Let Go.”
But I didn’t know how. After living a life in which I have held on so tight to everything single thing, how could I possibly let go?
So I pulled my baggage closer, afraid of parting with one single thing; not my castle, not my love of all things Styrofoam, not my regret over not purchasing Microsoft stock, not my anger at my sister.
But it seemed the tighter I held on, the more and more I began to hear that voice: “Let go.”
It started off small, like a still small voice, a whisper in the night: “Let Go.”
It got louder, like a song on the wind: “Let go.”
Then it boomed, like the crash of thunder: “Let go!”
I was scared. But then I remembered: somewhere in one of my bags were a few of my favorite Bible memories.
Like God calling Abraham and Sarah to “Go”, God inviting Moses to “Set my people free” or God telling Philip to mosey on down that lonely road that leading him to the Ethiopian Eunuch.
And how they were all the better for it.
So I did something daring. Next time I heard “Let go” I reached into one of my bags, and I released what was inside. I called up my sister and told her I forgave her for staining my jersey.
It didn’t seem to make much of a difference. But next time I heard “Let go” I reached into my bags and took all things Microsoft out and released those regrets to the wind.
Next time I heard “Let Go” I decided to accept the fact that MTV now only runs reality shows.
And little by little, more by more, an amazing thing happened: my baggage became lighter.
More and more I found ways to make amends, I found ways to forgive and let go of past grievances.
Little by little, more by more I began to let go of some of my childish ways, and I found ways to not be so rooted to the past.
And as hard as it has been, it’s been good. All the bags that I’ve been carrying, their straps cutting into my skin, their weight disfiguring my back, have become smaller.
I first noticed the difference, when one day I felt enough freedom to get into my car, and there was enough space to see what was ahead of me, as well as what was behind.
Soon, I was able to step onto the bus and go at Greyhound speed.
Soon, I was able to travel sea to shining sea. My baggage was still with me, but it was noticeably smaller and no longer limiting me.
And now, now after listening to that voice that called me to “Let Go” I find that I can travel in the air, like the Spirit, heading into my future, freed from my past, no longer trapped by my baggage, having new adventures, meeting new people and making new friends.
And, as you can see, my baggage has become light enough that I’ve been able to step back into church. Where I can see all your smiling faces, I can hear your beautiful songs and I know that God is real.
Even forgave the pastor for forgetting my name. After all: he’s only human, right?
Sure, I still got my own baggage to deal with. We all do. We’re human. But because of Christ, because of the grace that he gives, I have found a way to let go, a way to move ahead, and a way to trust on the Lord.
As scary as it is, when the Lord says “Let go”, let go. And you’ll be amazed where the Spirit takes you. You’ll be strengthened by Christ on your side. And you’ll discover that God will provide what you need for whatever journey is ahead.
Amen, and amen.