Once a month I get together with other clergy in Concord to talk about our ministry and our lives.
This week we the topic was the things that we hold on to.
It seemed like a perfect topic for us to consider this morning.
It is a good subject because our Gospel from Mark this morning is about what we hold on to.
Jesus is about to let go of his life.
And his disciples, as represented by Peter, want to hold on.
Peter wants to hold on to his ideas of what Jesus should be.
Peter wants to hold on to the glory he experienced as Jesus fed 5,000 people, calmed storms, walked on water, healed the sick, made blind men see.
Peter wants Jesus to be king and restore the glory of his people.
Jesus knows that his mission is not about what is in it for him and his disciples but that his mission is about giving away himself.
“For those who want to save their lives will lose it, but those who lose their life….will save it.”
I was watching a documentary this week about UCLA basketball under coach John Wooden.
He would give his players more than just the x and o on how to win basketball.
He would inspire in them beliefs about what it really meant to be a team and give of yourself for the greater cause.
One of his frequent sayings was, “happiness begins where selfishness ends.”
Our happiness in life is tied to what we give away, not what we keep.
It is a hard principle to live.
But I think in our deepest souls we know it to be true.
If I told you that you only had five minutes to gather up everything that meant something to you I bet that not one of you would think of some object that you owned.
Instead you think of the people in your life.
You would think about your loved ones and how much they meant to you.
So maybe there are things worth holding on to.
This morning I am wondering, what are the things in your life that you are holding on to?
What are the things stopping you from having a true life and happiness.
Perhaps it is some possession you have.
Or perhaps it is a grudge you have against someone, a prejudice, a hatred of someone else.
What are things we hold on to?
I know someone who has a rule that if there is something in their house they have not touched in two years time they get rid of it.
I also know others who hold on to everything that every piece of furniture, every book, every piece of paper seems to hold some very significant importance.
I once tried to help someone clean out their house.
It was the house he lived in since he was a kid.
It was filled with stuff books, magazines, old tax statement, old bills, old radios, and automobile parts.
He gave me one room to clean out that was just filled with stuff.
So I got a shovel and started to dig into this pile of stuff.
When he saw what I was doing he got upset and started to go through each piece of paper reading it, then saying to me, “I can’t get rid of that.”
His house was just filled to the brim with things that he couldn’t seem to part with.
I think our spiritual lives are sometimes like that man’s house.
We have filled it with so many rules, regulations, prejudices, doctrines, philosophies, and theologies.
And instead of allowing God to surprise us we become like Peter stuck in what we thought God is suppose to be.
Instead of allowing God to teach and lead us we block God out because there is no room for God to enter in.
This morning we need to clean that out.
We need to here Jesus this morning simplify it for us.
If you want to follow Jesus do something for someone else.
Don’t make your life better; make someone else’s life better.
What a crazy idea.
If you go to the religious section of the book store what you will find is a ton of books about making your life better.
You will find a ton of books on how to have a better prayer life, how to have more faith, or how to be more in tune with God.
But we don’t need all those self-help books we just need to be ready, willing, and able to serve others and give of ourselves.
Our council president Larry Johansen and I have lunch once a month to talk about what needs to be talked about at our council meeting.
At our monthly meeting this month we were talking about our fall stewardship campaign.
I was telling Larry that it is one of the best parts of my job.
I really enjoy talking to you all about giving.
Because what I find is that giving is brings people happiness.
I tell the council all the time that our stewardship can’t focus on the church’s need to receive.
It can’t be about our need to keep the lights on, pay the pastor’s salary, pay for our insurance, or any of the other practical things we need to pay for.
It can’t even only be about our mission and ministry.
It has to always be about your need to give.
In giving we find happiness.
That is why I love to talk about giving.
It is what really helps our spiritual selves to flourish.
In giving our lives away we begin to find them.
My wife this weekend participated in the Reach the Beach relay.
For those who don’t know Reach the Beach relay is a 200 mile run from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach.
Teams of 12 runners split the legs of the run.
Vicki runs on a team that raises money for camp calumet campership fund.
They wanted to help kids who needed help go to camp.
They posted updates during their run.
And before one of the legs Gary Anderson was interviewed about what was motivating him as he was about to run in the middle of the night on a particular hard part.
He said, “I am doing it so kids can go to camp.”
I went to the end of the race at the Hampton beach.
You would think that people working on only 3 hours sleep, who have been running for two days, riding in a van with 12 other people, would be cranky.
But what was present at the end of that race was joy.
Giving of ourselves is what brings true happiness.
If we can just let go of things in our life that don’t matter and focus on that.
I was thinking about the things I hold on to a lot this week.
And as I took that inventory I realized there are lots of things I want to give up.
I would love to give up my own need for control.
I would love to give up my own desire for personal accomplishment.
I would love to give up my desire to have four hours alone on Sunday so I could watch an entire football game.
I would love to give up the box of CDs I keep in our attic.
I would love to give up the need to measure myself against others.
I would love to give up my desire to keep everything the way it is now.
But there are other things I want to hold to.
I want to hold on to the love I experience in my family.
I want to hold on to my kids.
I want to hold on to my love for my calling in life.
I want to hold on to my love for sharing a meal with others.
What are the things that you want to hold on to?
What are the things you need to give up?
I think when we get to answer those questions we come closer to experiencing the happiness that we all seek.
We begin to grasp what Jesus meant by giving up our lives in order to save them.
Give up the selfishness in our hearts, and hold on to the love we give away.
At the end of the day, that is what people will remember about us.
They won’t remember how many houses we had, or how many CD’s we collected.
Those will just be things that are sold or thrown out.
But what we give will remain forever.
We all know this to be true too.
Because if you think about a loved one you lost you don’t think about what they had, but what they gave of you.
That is what will last forever.
So this week I hope you take some time and think about the things you hold on to.
What are the physical things that are cluttering your life, but also the spiritual things?
And that you will find happiness where selfishness ends.
You will find that you can gain your life by giving it away.