“Who Is In Control?”

Sermon – 09-26-21 – Proper 21 – Cycle B
Scripture – Numbers 11:4-6; 10-16; 24-29 / Psalm 19:7-14 / James 5:13-20 / Mark 9:8-50
Sermon Title: “Who Is In Control?”

Do you feel like a puppet? Did you see the front cover of our bulletin? It looks as if it could be God holding the controlling strings. That little guy could be you or myself. How much control do you think God has over your life?

One level is that God controls every single aspect of our lives. We have no freedom. It is all pre-planned when we were conceived. We are not free to change the plan.

Another level is that God has much control but not total control. We have some freedom.

Then there is the idea that we have control over most of our lives but there are some decisions that God still holds in his power.

The extreme way of thinking is that God has no control over our lives. We are in total control of all decisions and attitudes and behavior.

Here is my belief. Yours may be different. No matter. We each see things differently as our lives unfold. I will share mine with you. Maybe you would like to share yours with me or actually everyone when I finish the sermon.

I believe that God can control anything he wants to control. He has his own criteria to control or not to control. Does he plan intervention ahead of the event or is God’s decision spur-of-the-moment? I don’t know. I believe that God does plan a path for us when we are conceived. We have the freedom to walk off the path. However, it usually happens that our own choices, our own steps off the path, are not wise. They may seem happy at first. But then little or big things happen to convince us that we led ourselves, or were tempted by others, to walk on our own path and not on God’s pre-planned path.

If we have a good and strong relationship with God, we will notice that God pulls us back onto the path he planned. Sometimes this seems restrictive if we did not notice any problems arising from our waywardness. Or it can be very comforting to know that God cares so much about us. It can feel like a little chick being drawn under its mother hen’s warm and safe wings. It can feel as though we are being returned to the inside of the protective fence rather than on the outside of the fence where freedom looked so appealing but the wolves were waiting to devour us under cover of a “little red riding hood” disguise.

On the other hand, are there times when we have been in control of something? If we have children, we had some sort of control. Each of us used our control differently – some of us were strict, some of us allowed a lot of freedom and the children learned about life the hard way – whatever works must be the right way to do things. If the child gets hurt, the child learns that touching an electric fence is not a good idea. If the child touches a hot stove burner, the child learns about danger.

This idea of free-will is not the kindest way for children or grown-ups to learn. We could walk right into a sink hole. We could walk right ino a relationship that is trouble. We could leave a good job because we are curious about what else is out there. Could we learn something new? Sometimes it works; sometimes it leads to anguish.

Suppose you are a teacher. You know how to keep your children interested and happy most of the time. But along comes an art teacher or a physical education teacher or a music teacher who has a different way of “handling” the class – maybe more freedom or more strict. So you mention this to the principal expecting him or her to talk to the once-a-week teachers who cause you displeasure or even fear that your children may not respond to your style of teaching anymore.

But what does the principal do and say? They are fine. Let them alone. They are teaching the way that works best for them. They do care about having the children learn well. They do care about the children’s well-being. They are not against the children, therefore they are for the children.

If this sounds like Moses in our Old Testament lesson you were caught up in the Moses story today. You see, Moses was exhausted. We learned that there were about a million people in that crowd of Israelites that Moses was charged by God to lead. They complained and complained. First, they named the vegetables that wanted and the fish. Then Moses complains to God. He says, “If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once . . .”

That is when God told Moses to gather seventy of the elders of Israel to assist him in the care of this large throng. God took some of the Spirit from Moses and laid it on these seventy elders and told them to prophesy. They did! But only once! Then Joshua came running to report a problem. Two of these seventy had stayed separate even though the Spirit rested on them also. They did not stop with prophesying once. They continued to prophecy. Moses shall stop them. This is not right.

But Moses says, “Would that all of God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”

Fast forward to Jesus in the New Testament Gospel. Here a man is healing people and he is not one of the disciples. Jesus is quick to rebuke John by saying, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Both Moses and Jesus are fine with people healing and teaching if they did it in the name of God or the name of Jesus. They were willing to give up control and strictness if the Spirit of God came upon people outside the close circle.

Can we be like that man who healed people in the name of Jesus? James says that we can. We don’t need to be educated; we don’t need to be a Consistory member. We shall be relaxed and open, trying to be righteous. We shall be ready to pray and serve if and when God lays his Spirit upon us. “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” God is not stingy with his control and power. God shares his power with us! We can do the work of the Lord. Let us increase our work for the Lord!

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