Release

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 16:25

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John Bunyan's classic 17th century story The Pilgrim's Progress, begins with its protagonist, Christian, lugging around a tremendously heavy backpack everywhere he goes.  This heavy backpack slows him down, bends him over, and keeps him from even being able to move - or even look forward.  He is exhausted, confused and discouraged by life, but he nonetheless keeps a firm grip on his own baggage - as if he has no idea how to live without all his familiar burdens and worldly cares.   

The Pilgrim's Progress is allegorical story of a person's coming to faith, and through encounters with various interesting characters, Christian comes to know God in a new way, letting go of the things he once assumed were true and becoming able to receive new insights from God.  It is when Christian finally drops the heavy backpack that he takes the first important step in his journey, and also experiences tremendous liberation.  He can now move forward freely, with energy and curiosity and has a whole new life to explore, but he'd had to lose his old life to find it. (I highly recommend this beautifully illustrated children's version of the book.  It is much better than Bunyan's original 17th century English!)

There is a whole lot in the gospels about being willing to give stuff up - to let go of all your possessions - to leave everything behind and follow Jesus - even to lose your life to find it.  We don't like the thought of giving up our belongings, our control or our lives as we know them. But it's also true that moving forward necessarily includes leaving something behind.  You can't do things in a new way if you continue to keep doing it the old way.  You can't enter a new phase if you won't exit the old one.  And you certainly can't move gracefully into a new life of faith if you're refusing to put down the huge burden of your old assumptions and beliefs.

We live in quite challenging times, and when times are challenging like this, I know that's when I tend to most want to hold on to what is familiar even more tightly.  Since there seems to be no area of life in these anxious times that does not feel touched, or even threatened, by instability and the loss of control, it is an even more challenging spiritual discipline to be willing to let go - to be open to new things and new ways of perceiving them.

Living faithfully in the midst of great change requires a willingness to let go.  It requires taking a leap of faith into the unknown to trust that there will be someone there to catch and guide us through the dark. It requires a leap out of the safety zone - a letting go of all the stuff - an embracing of the mystery that we do not control.  But perhaps like Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress, in the release, we will discover that the familiar contents of our heavy backpacks can't hold a candle to the bright and shining life being offered on the road ahead of us.  Perhaps we will discover that by losing our lives, we might well actually find them.

This Sunday's readings are HERE   

Note that during Ordinary Time, we are using the readings in "Track 2"