Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trust and follow

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT, March 29, 2009:

A man was standing on the edge of a cliff one day admiring the beautiful scenery laid out before him. Suddenly, without warning, the ground beneath his feet broke away and he began to fall. In desperation he grabbed a small branch and held on with all his might as he hung over the edge. The rocky ground was hundreds of feet below his dangling legs. So the man began to yell out, “Help me! Is there anyone up there! Help me! Help me!” Suddenly the man heard a loud voice that said, “This is God. I will help you. Put all your faith and trust in me and I will take you safely to the top. All you have to do is let go.” The man paused for a moment, looked intently at the ground far below and then back to the heavens and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Letting go and fully trusting in God is one of the most difficult things we’ll ever face in our spiritual journey. But, it is also one of the most necessary parts of truly living as people of faith. Jesus tells us as much in today’s Gospel passage, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” Jesus asks us to trust fully in Him in this life – not to trust in ourselves or our own ability – but to trust that His way is the right way – even when we can’t see the bigger picture; even when we can’t foretell the outcome. He simply asks us to trust and to follow. The hopes of our Lenten journey are that we will all embrace this trust more deeply.

There is a story about an emperor trying to choose his successor. The emperor decided to choose from among the children of the kingdom. Calling them together he said, “I am going to give each one of you a very special seed today. Plant it and care for it and return one year from today with what you have grown. I will then judge and the one I choose will be the next emperor!”

One boy, named Rex, went home and excitedly told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Rex kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, 4 weeks, 5 weeks went by. Still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants but Rex didn't have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by and still nothing. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Rex didn't say a word, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Rex told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot, but his Mother said he must be honest about what happened. Rex felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his Mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

When Rex arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful - in all shapes and sizes. Rex put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kids laughed at him. When the emperor arrived, Rex just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor.

Looking over the crowd, the emperor spotted Rex at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered him to the front. Rex was terrified. When he got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Rex,” he replied. He looked at the boy, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Rex!” Rex couldn't believe it. He couldn't even grow a seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which would not grow. All of you, except Rex, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When the rest of you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Rex was the only one who trusted to do what I asked no matter what. Therefore, he will be the new emperor!”

Rex trusted even when it seemed difficult. How many times in our own lives are we unwilling to offer pure and honest trust and instead try and change things ourselves, without God’s help. Scripture shows us time and time again, that when we fail to trust in God, things don’t go our way. Rex couldn’t understand how things had gone wrong with his seed, yet he didn’t alter his course; he continued to follow the emperor and for that he was rewarded. How much more so for those who trust and follow God.

Our Lenten journey calls us to just this kind of trust in the Lord, whom we should follow wherever He leads. “The Father will honor whoever serves me… And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

May God give you peace.

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