Letting Go of Agendas, and Embracing our Destiny

Uploaded by centexmcc on 01.04.2012

Part of the American Dream is to aspire to greatness. To make something of yourself, regardless of your humble beginnings.
Most parents look into the eyes of their newborn infant and wonder if the child will one day become a rich and successful doctor,
or President of the U.S., or Pulitzer Prize winner. The good parent urges and encourages the child to become all she or he can possibly be.
I am grateful for the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life who have groomed me for greatness. They believed in me and my potential when I didn't believe in myself.
They whispered prophetic words into my ears which eventually took root in my soul. So compelling were those words of encouragement, that they even invaded my dreams at night.
For months, maybe years after arriving in Waco as a fresh, bright-eyed, ready-to-take-on-the world, young pastor,
I had a recurring dream in which our Sunday morning attendance had effortlessly exploded overnight into a full-to-overflowing congregation.
Everyone wanted to be at our church. My arrival had fixed everyone's problems.
I had proven myself to be the amazing golden boy pastor of MCC churches. I think it's a dream that every new pastor imagines living out.
We tend to enter new church settings with our own agendas – agendas which have been handed out to us during our education as pastors-in-training.
Agendas with goals that include increased attendance, increased community visibility, and increased church programs supported by an increased budget.
All of which are perfectly reasonable goals, of course. In fact, all of these things have happened at our own church,
although not at the rapid rate that I would have liked, and certainly not without the usual setbacks and disappointments that accompany growing pains.
Disappointments which could have proven to be overwhelming had I not learned to let go of my agenda while embracing my destiny.
In this morning's passage from the Gospel of Mark we watch as the crowds try to impose upon Jesus their own agenda of glory and greatness.
They were a people oppressed by the Roman Empire and they were looking for a messiah, someone to throw off the yoke of their oppression.
And they saw that messiah, that savior, in the person of Jesus. Here was the answer to their prayers.
Here was the one prophesied by Zechariah: "Lo, your king comes to you triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
At long last, their king had arrived. A king who would overthrow Caesar's Empire. One who would establish a new throne, a new reign of righteousness and justice.
Here was the very one taking on that prophetic role, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. And so they, too, played out their own roles.
They would have recalled the overthrow of Greek rule by the Maccabeus brothers: "On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the year 171,
there was a great celebration in the city because this terrible threat to the security of Israel had come to an end.
Simon and his men entered the fort singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, while carrying palm branches and playing harps, cymbals, and lyres."
Hence the palm branches in this morning's reading. The crowds were playing out their role as they saw it to be, waving branches before their king,
casting their cloaks before him, crying out "Hosanna!" to him, which does not mean "Yippee!", as many of us might imagine.
But rather, it means "Save us!" "Hosanna! Save us, Jesus! Fix us! Make our life better! And do it quickly, if not sooner!"
This was the agenda. A tempting agenda. An agenda of power and fame and popularity. An agenda of forcefully overthrowing another power.
An agenda which had been waved before his eyes by Satan in the wilderness. One which would have continued to tempt him throughout his ministry.
It would have been so easy. It would have seemed so right, such a perfect fit. But as appealing as the crowd's agenda would have appeared, it wasn't his destiny.
Jesus' destiny had nothing to do with Caesar's dominion, but rather, the dominion of God. A dominion with a different set of values.
You see, in the Dominion of God, a nobody from the rural backwater can be the hope of the oppressed.
In the Dominion of God, a savior can be executed as a criminal and still be revered and honored. In the Dominion of God, one can be slain and still somehow remain alive in people's spirits.
In the Dominion of God, death doesn't get the last word! In the Dominion of God, Pilate can ride a war horse in parades, but the peasant on a tiny colt is who the story is really about.
The crowd's agenda had to do with the overthrow of the dominion of Caesar, but Jesus' destiny had to do with establishment of the dominion of God on earth.
Jesus had a choice, as do we all. He could choose to embrace the agenda which was set before him by the crowds.
Or he could embrace his destiny. I believe that our church also has a choice. We can embrace the agendas that have been handed out to us by our culture.
Words copied from the pages of the growing number of books that flood the market on how to be a success. Agendas have pre-determined outcomes
which always include personal profit and gain. And they allow us to move through life with confidence. Within the church, agendas tend encourage growth for growth's sake.
They help us feel good about ourselves. They spotlight our accomplishments. Success can easily be measured with attendance and giving graphs –
graphs with steep slopes. We can embrace this sort of agenda or we can embrace our destiny.
Destinies are something altogether different. Destinies lead us into uncharted territories or territories that we would really rather not travel into.
No one can predict our destiny; we have to discover it for ourselves. It seems to take longer to meet our destinies than our agendas.
Destinies are riddled with distractions. They are challenged by personality conflicts and the agendas of people who would rather we march to the beat of their drum.
I believe the destiny to which you and I have been called is a unique one. It's a destiny which no other people, no other church, can embrace.
William Barclay said, "It may well be that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Christ what we have and what we are.
If, just as we are, we would lay ourselves on the altar of service…there is no saying what Christ could do with us and through us."
If you are a member of this church, then you have made a commitment to embrace our destiny. That commitment involves prayer on the behalf of our ministries.
It includes participation in at least one of our church’s ministries. It means joining in worship with others in our faith community on Sunday mornings.
And it means supporting our ministry programs with your financial contributions. That's what it means to embrace our destiny.
Anything less is to set your own agenda. Following our destiny is not always easy. It's not even always joyful.
But it's meaningful and it's transformational. I believe it's the destiny of this church to touch lives and to transform them.
We are doing that by the grace of God, by the example of Jesus Christ, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But even still, we cannot embrace our destiny without you.
We are doing that by the grace of God, by the example of Jesus Christ, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But even still, we cannot embrace our destiny without you.
Without each and every one of you, just as you are. As the Season of Lent draws to a close,
I encourage each of you to let go of your own agenda and embrace your destiny. And as you do, you will be blessed. Amen.