July 8, 2012
Scripture: Mark 6:1-13
Sermon Title: “Baggage”
Rev. George N. Miller
(This message is acted out in character with a country twang and scads of luggage hanging off of me)
Howdy! Good to see ya. Thank you for inviting me. I’d have arrived sooner, but as you can see: I got too much baggage weighing me down.
Lots o’ baggage: past and present. Trouble is, I’m so weighed down it don’t seem like I’m going to have much of a future. Still, it’s my baggage.
I used to travel all the time when I was younger; meet new people, experience new things, back then my baggage was much smaller and lighter.
I would soar in the air, but it’s now impossible to pass through security with all this stuff.
Tried the good ol’ American railways to go sea to shiny sea, but my baggage took up too much room.
Same thing with the bus, ‘xcept the weight of my baggage made it more of a Turtle then a Greyhound.
Thought I could take all my baggage with me in the car, but wouldn’t you know: it blocked the windows and I couldn’t clearly see where I was going or where I was coming from.
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 who I am.
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: my memories of the way things used to be. Like toys I used to play with. Photo albums- see how young I looked? How MTV used to show music videos. Videotapes of favorite movies: why can’t they make them like that anymore?
You certainly can’t blame me for not parting with any of these.
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 had went to college. I coulda been married by now if I had asked Pat to the prom. I coulda been a millionaire if I had bought stock in Microsoft.
This here: my woulda bag. I woulda been successful if I had just gone to school to be a doctor. I woulda been a Dad or maybe even a grandfather if I had just asked Pat to the prom. 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 used my favorite 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 and I refused to go back to church until he called to apologize.
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?
I can’t be the only one with shoulda-woulda-coulda bags, am I?
Or grievances bags? Let’s be honest: we hold grudges against folk, don’t we?
I ain’t the only one, though it does appear 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.
Just sitting at home, surrounded by all my bags.
One day, while nothing else was on the TV, I turned the channel to this preacher; you know: the one with the mullet and constant smile?
It been ages since I last stepped foot inside a church. But this pastor seemed alright, so I decided to listen, all my bags comfortably surrounding me.
He was talking about Mark 6:1-13; how Jesus wasn’t respected in his home town. Folk claimed he was just a bit too uppity; they tried to bring him down a peg by sayin’ he ain’t buthin’ but the carpenter’s son.
But did that stop Jesus? No! Next thing you know, he’s sending the disciples out 2 by 2, encouraging them to 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 was kinda amazed by that. I mean, if I was Jesus, and I was humiliated like that in my own hometown, you can bet that I’d have me a brand new big ol’ suitcase filled with all the names of people who ticked me off.
But here is Jesus, letting all these slights roll off his back like water to a duck, and he was able to move on and do what he needed to do.
He tells the disciples that they are to travel without the basic necessities: no food, no money, no baggage.
Just a tunic for their body, sandals for the feet and a walking stick.
This was a way to teach them how to rely upon the Lord, and to also demonstrate to others how the Christian life is a life of simplicity.
Something about the message resonated with me. I know that 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 every single thing, how could I possibly let go?
So I pulled my baggage closer, afraid of parting with one single thing; not my toys, 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. I didn’t know how.
But the next time I heard that voice say “Let go,” I reached into my memories bag, and accepted the fact that MTV will never go back to showing just videos. (Put one bag down)
Next time I heard God say “Let go” I went into one of my bags and pulled out that jersey my sister ruined. I called her up and told her I forgave her for staining it. (Put another bag down)
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. (Put another bag down)
And little by little, more by more, an amazing thing happened: my baggage became lighter. (Put another bag down)
More and more I found ways to make amends, I found ways to forgive and let go of past grievances. (Put another bag down)
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 stuck in the past. (Put another bag down)
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. (Stand up straight; go to pulpit and grab small carry-on bag)
I first noticed the difference when I got 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 get onto the train and without all that baggage, folk were able to sit beside me, and talk, and get to know one another.
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 have been given new freedom.
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 and the grace he gives, I have found a way to let go, a way to move ahead, and a way to trust in the Lord.
In conclusion, I have learned that as scary as it is, when the Lord says “Let go”, let go. 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 you with “enough” of what you need for whatever journey lays ahead. Amen, and amen.