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Sticking With It...By Letting the Spirit Lead Us

What words come to mind when you see this photo? For me it is "slow". As a child my mother read to us Aesop's fables. The fable of the tortoise and the hare from my childhood often comes to mind also when I see a tortoise. And the lesson from that fable comes to mind...when I am wanting things to move faster, get done quicker or I want to just race to the finish line. That fable reminds about the value of "slow and steady. It came to mind with a gospel reading that calls out "quitting when it gets tough".

Fortitude. Sticking with it- even when it's hard, really hard. Keeping at it. Following- even when there is uncertainty, fear, and a lot of unknowns. In John 6:60 we read , When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” and then in verse sixty-six, Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. They turned back. It was too difficult. The Greek word for difficult is Σκληρός sklērós it can also mean stubborn, hard because it is dried out, stiff, unyielding. It makes me think of the expression "burnt out". Are you feeling tired, worn out, weary?

Many times I have shared and keep coming back to The Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30-

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Perhaps you are already familiar with the expression, "don't quit before the miracle happens". So how do we do this? WE don't. It is the Spirit that calls, gathers, enlightens and sustains us. We are continually learning to tap into the "unforced rhythms of grace". This journey of following Jesus is one of surrender, letting go, giving up our great plans, our will, our wanting it all on our terms.

This week as we explore the Third article of the Apostles' Creed as part of our "Apostles in August" preaching series I want to invite you into some practices of giving up, letting go, letting God do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Instead of the, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". The "Just do it" and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps- narratives consider an "instead".

Let the "sticking with it" not be about you needing to have the answers and make things happen. Instead... When the going gets tough- will you let the Spirit lead and guide you and carry you if need be? I often return to Romans 12:11-13 in The Message

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

When I am struggling, when it's hard, and I just want to give up, crawl under the covers and hide- I consider following the lead of a friend of mine. She reaches out to others to ask how she can pray for them, when she is struggling. Sometimes, by the grace of God, I am able to do this. Sometimes I cannot.

It seems so upside down to reach out to offer something for someone else when I feel so depleted. And it works. It's being "inventive" in the struggle. And sometimes even though I know it works, I can't do even that. Sometimes my prayers are the sighs too deep for words, the shaking fist, the tears streaming down my face. Together we get to keep letting the love and grace of God surround and sustain us. Often the challenge is to just let it be and instead of trying to fix it, solve it, understand it.... we surrender. We let the breath, the moment just be.

We let it be gift, pure gift that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is God who saves us, we do not save ourselves. We follow. In the gospel reading after those for whom following Jesus is too difficult- leave, Jesus asks the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?". The word for "going away" can indicate a change in relationship. As we explore being apostles in this month of August the invitation is into deeper relationship. A relationship of trust.

Slow and steady. Learning the unforced rhythms of grace. Letting in a love that saves us for the here and now to live this breath, this moment, this day. The song Oceans by Hillsong is a prayer I offer up for you as together: we let go and let God, we take it at tortoise speed-slow and steady, we surrender, we don't quit before the miracle happens, we pray, we learn to live freely and lightly.... we rest in the embrace of the Triune God as the Spirit leads us where our trust is without borders.

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown

Where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours

You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand

Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You've never failed

And You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours

And You are mine (You are mine)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

~lyrics to Oceans by Hillsong

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