Rimbey United Church
Rev. Deborah Laing
March 18, 2018
Use your Will
51 Not long before it was time for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. 52 He sent some messengers on ahead to a Samaritan village to get things ready for him. 53 But he was on his way to Jerusalem, so the people there refused to welcome him. 54 When the disciples James and John saw what was happening, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy these people?”[h]
55 But Jesus turned and corrected them for what they had said.[i] 56 Then they all went on to another village.
57 Along the way someone said to Jesus, “I’ll go anywhere with you!”
58 Jesus said, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.”
59 Jesus told someone else to come with him. But the man said, “Lord, let me wait until I bury my father.”[j]
60 Jesus answered, “Let the dead take care of the dead, while you go and tell about God’s kingdom.”
61 Then someone said to Jesus, “I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home.”
62 Jesus answered, “Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing to God’s kingdom!”
6 God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7 If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8 If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully.
9 Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10 Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. 11 Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord.
A number of years ago, I attended a four-day Ignatian prayer retreat in Pincher Creek. It was intended not only to be a retreat for those four days, but something that would propel us out into life to change something and make a difference in the next 100 days.
We were asked on the first day to think about something we wanted to change in our lives. Something that was causing us distress.
Most of us have patterns that we don’t particularly like. Patterns that make our own lives hard, that make work or relationships strained. Patterns that are hard on our health.
It can be procrastination, or living too sedentary a life. It can be not taking care of ourselves and our health properly, or feeling isolated and lonely.
For me, one of the patterns that I had was that I had a hard time detaching myself from things. From carrying the sadness from other people’s lives and my own. Detaching myself from problems and worries that might have not been mine to start with. But when you carry around all that stuff, it’s hard to get out from under it.
So we had to start with a prayer that went something like this: God give me the gift or the grace to (fill in the blank.)
To take care of myself better.
To get more engaged in life
To move more
To have a little fun
To find new things to think about.
For me, my prayer was give me the grace to let things go.
And then you were supposed to make a plan to do that in one small step every day for a hundred days.
And the leader of the retreat said, you don’t start with the hardest thing. You work your way up. Start small.
So as I was learning to let go of things that weighed me down, the first thing I did on day 1 was gather up the recycling and take it to the depot. Let go.
Day 2 I called up the satellite people and cancelled my television subscription. TV was too distracting. Let go.
Day 3 I threw out magazines that I had been saving for 20 years, sure that I would want to reuse a recipe or an article. Let go.
And so it continued for days, l learned to let go of things that weighed me down. And every day I felt better. It felt like the prayer was being answered one small step at a time. God was giving me the grace to let go.
About 30 days in I was able to sit down with boxes of things I had brought home with me after my mother had died. Boxes that had been untouched for years. And I opened them and went through them with the purpose and the grace to let go.
And found that out of 6 or 7 big boxes, I only really wanted to keep a few items, which I immediately put to use. Some of the rest of the stuff, I wondered what on earth I was thinking when I made the decision to hold on to it . Letting go helped me make better decisions. And eventually helped me let go of other people’s problems that I was putting more effort into than they were.
It was an exercise in relying on the grace of God, but also doing one thing every day consciously, actively, to make God’s grace real.
We don’t just rely on God to swoop down and save us from ourselves, from our problems, from our worlds’ needs. We need to take concrete action every day to make things happen. And to keep at it.
In the scripture reading from today…the gospel, talks about Jesus heading to Jerusalem.
In the King James version of the Bible, they wrote it like this:
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
We’re coming up to Holy Week and Easter. The time when Jesus enters Jerusalem knowing that the authorities are closing in on him and conspiring to arrest him.
He was close to danger. Close to death. To being “received up.” To God.
And yet knowing that, he set his face to Jerusalem. He didn’t turn away and go the other direction. It was an act of will.
And the next few lines in the scripture tell you how hard it was. They came to a Samaritan village. Jesus had been good to Samaritans, but no one there would extend hospitality to him and his disciples. They wouldn’t let them stay and wouldn’t feed them. It says, “Because they were on their way to Jerusalem.”
The Samaritans believed that the center of worship to God was on Mount Gerazim. The Jews believed it was in Jerusalem. So Jesus and his followers were off to journey to Jerusalem. The old religious rivalries reared their heads and the Samaritans wouldn’t help the Jews.
James and John, quick to get angry and vengeful said, “Lord do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy these people?” Jesus had to tamp down their nasty response. Then led them to the next village.
There are three little vignettes meeting people.
One said he’d go anywhere with Jesus. And Jesus said he had nowhere to stay. Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but he has nowhere to sleep.
Then someone said I’ll go with you but I have to bury my father first. It didn’t actually indicate whether his father was dead yet or whether it would take a few more years, but he’d get around to dedicating himself to the project.
Then someone else said “I’ll go with you but I have a few things to wrap up at home. “ and Jesus said “you can’t plough by looking backwards all the time.” You have to see what is ahead of you.
All through Jesus’ ministry, he was gathering people together, feeding them stories and bread, feeding them hope and opportunity.
But now that his face was set for Jerusalem, the faint-hearted, the busy and marginally supportive people fell away. Only those who were committed were going.
You start to figure out who is with you when the going gets hard.
That is when you have to use your will. To keep taking those small steps because you know it is a good purpose.
In our study book One Small Step, the practice this week is to use your will. To make something happen through your own effort and commitment.
It means to push through difficulties. To stretch for other people. To make use of your positive attributes and try to restrain your negative ones. To do a good thing even when it’s hard.
That is using your will.
Jesus’ path was not an easy one. Not only the end, which brought him through arrest, trial, crucifixion and death. But his daily work was demanding. He had people who tried to trap him, slow him, turn him from what he needed to do. He had people who received good things from him but couldn’t give good things back.
In other words, he lived like we do. When sometimes, life is hard slogging. It is then that you use your will.
The author of the book, Rick Hanson says that using your will consists of four qualities:
1. Be ardent. Which means wholehearted, enthusiastic and eager. Think why this thing matters to you.
2. . Be Resolute. Which means wholly committed and unwavering. Learning to say no to things that distract you from your goal and yes to things that help.
3. Be Diligent. Which means your are conscientious and thorough. You do it not because it’s a slog and a grind, but because you feel right doing it right.
4. Be mindful. Pay attention to how you are progressing.
Using your will is a way of practicing life knowing that the things you value are important to you…important enough to put in effort to make it good.
When Margie read the chapter on using your will, she thought of a young man she’d heard of and I asked if she’d tell the congregation the story. Because people who use their will well not only reward themselves, but others. As Paul said to the Romans…”never give up.”
Ryan Hreljac. At age 6 he learnt that not everyone in the world had clean drinking water so doing extra chores around the house he earned $70.00 , which he thought would be enough. However he didn't stop and 20 years later he has changed the lives of over 1 million people in 16 countries . Ryan's Well Foundation has coupled with Matt Daymon's H2o foundation, as well as many others, to prove that one person can make difference.
He is a real example of will power. oh did I mention he is a Canadian).
Homework this week:
1. Think of a goal you want to attain. Break it down into doable steps.
2. Take one step per day.
“Being defiant is a two-year-old who doesn't want to go to bed when he's tired. Being resolute is standing one's ground even in the face of opposition. It's a man's virtue, not a toddler's vice.”
― Minisinoo, FINDING HIMSELF
“A person who finds grace never lacks the courage to endure, remain resolute in principles and action in the face of an easy collapse into anger, insanity, and self-destruction when living in an increasing chaotic world filled with armed conflict, terrorism, and cultural discord.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
“Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Chuck Close
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
― Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald