Opening Song: Love the Lord
(Welcome Slide) Good morning. Thank you to Tim on keyboards, Jeremy on bass,
Chip on Guitar, Keith on percussion, Mike and Michelle on vocals, ___ on our
soundboard, and our greeters ____ and ____. We’re going to do our 2nd song in
the middle of things today, so our musicians will be back soon.
I’m Maria Griswold, and one of about 20 different people who take turns sharing
a message at our weekly Gatherings.
(Accepted, Respected, Loved Slide) One of the best things presenters get to do
each week is look out at each one of you and let you know that no matter where
you are on your life journey, you are “Accepted, Respected, and Loved” by God
and our Fellowship community.
I recently found a sign on Facebook that to me describes our church house
well…describes how we do “Accepted, Respected, and Loved.”
(In This House Slide-use for Meet and Greet) It says,
Let’s take a few minutes to get up and greet each other and share a little of that
love that we “do” so well.
In the past, I’ve spoken about topics that I’ve really made my own. But today,
I’m talking about a topic that is fairly new territory for me…something I’m just
beginning to learn about. Not too long ago, I walked by the display of new
books at the library and this one jumped out at me. (Surrender Book Slide)
“Surrender!…..” by Father Larry Richards. Now I’m surprised I didn’t turn around
and run out the door right then and there because “Surrender” is a word I really
haven’t liked much. But for some reason, this book had me waving a white flag
from the get go. Much to my surprise, I checked it out and brought it home.
Am I the only one who has felt uneasy about the word “surrender”? To me it has
often had the negative implications of losing or giving up.
Here’s one definition of “surrender” I found on dictionary.com: (Definition Slide
1) “to yield (something) to the possession or power of another.” So how about
(Definition Slide 2) “to yield [one’s life] to the power of [God]? Now that’s a
definition I can live with.
In fact, I’ve wondered if I brought the book home because of its positive subtitle:
“The Life-Changing Power of Doing God’s Will.” I’d sure like to experience more
of “life-changing power” of God in my life. The book’s chapter titles offered some
great promises too (Chapter Title Slide):
Surrender and Go to Heaven!
Surrender and Be Free!
Surrender and Be an Icon of Jesus!
Surrender and Hear God’s Voice!
Surrender and Discover God’s Will!
Surrender and Live God’s Will!
So I decided to give the book a go. However, one of the first things I had to
surrender is my Protestant prejudice about reading a book by a Catholic priest.
When I was in Middle School, my family moved next door to a family who not
only had a daughter my age, but they had horses too. However, because of
cultural paradigms, my mom wouldn’t let us be friends. She was concerned that
I might in turn meet this girl’s friends and become romantically involved with a
Catholic…with someone’s whose religious doctrines and practices she perceived
as being so different from my own. So, as I began reading the book, I made a
sincere effort to not let theological or cultural differences keep me from hearing
the spirit and heart of Fr. Richards’ message. The book ended up resonating with
me deeply. I realized that several aspects of surrendering were already part of
my prayer practice, and now I also am making a conscious effort to incorporate
several more ideas from the book into my prayer life. I’m not suggesting that
everyone go out and read this book. It just happened to be the right book at
the right time for me; and just the very act of reading it helped me learn that
surrender requires listening to God with one’s heart. (Surrender Means Slide)
As we go forward today, I encourage you to keep your heart and thought open
and see what new insights God might have for you on this topic. What might
surrender look like in your life right now? What outgrown beliefs can you let go
of, and what new directions and ideas are begging to be accepted?
Over the past month, I’ve found the concept of surrender popping up all over the
place. Biblical examples of the life-changing power of surrender are abundant.
For example there was Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac but then
also to change course when God directed him otherwise. There was Moses’
agreeing to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt even though he was slow of
speech, and of course, Jesus’ facing of the crucifixion and the poignant words
he uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Thy will be done.” There is probably
no better example of complete surrender than Jesus. We’ve also talked a bit at
Gatherings about Saul who had persecuted Christians, but when he surrendered
to the calling of the Christ was transformed, and as Paul became one of the major
players in establishing early Christian communities. One of the Biblical characters
that I’ve enjoyed thinking about lately is Ananias, a key figure in Paul’s story.
When Jesus appeared to Saul, Saul was made blind, and Ananias was given the
task of healing him.
Here’s Ananias’ story as told in The Message:
There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to
him in a vision: “Ananias.”
“Yes, Master?” he answered.
“Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from
Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he
saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see
Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about
this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your
people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief
Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal
representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews….”
So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and
said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way
here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No
sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from
Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down
with them to a hearty meal.
Did you catch the “Ananias protested” part? Jesus’ followers hadn’t had it easy.
They had been practicing and spreading their faith, but in many ways they also
had just been trying to stay alive and not be put in jail or stoned to death, and
now Ananias was being asked to not just go see the guy behind all the terror, but
to heal him. Ananias had to totally surrender his own sense of who Saul was as
well as concern for his personal safety. Ananias’ act of surrender took humility,
forgiveness, and a lot of courage.
(Surrender Means Courage). Surrender means having courage. It requires facing
our fears with real trust in God’s presence and control over the outcome of our
lives. Sometimes what God tells us to do may not make sense, but He will give us
the courage, clarity, and strength necessary to do His will.
I’m going to ask the band to come back and for our second song. I really
appreciate their waiting for a bit. As I was working on today’s Gathering, I was
listening to Joy FM and heard “Whatever You’re Doing” by Sanctus Real. I think
it does a wonderful job of capturing the heart of surrender and perhaps some
of what both and Ananias and Saul might have been thinking and feeling as they
faced their encounter with each other.
(Song – “Whatever You’re Doing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B-udGxwLV0)
“It feels like chaos, but somehow there’s peace.” That’s my favorite line. My
husband and I were talking about Ananias recently and Mike said, “I don’t think
this guy went in there with his boots (or sandals) shaking. I think he went in with
confidence that nothing could stand against God and his Christ…nothing!” But as
Blair has sometimes reminded us in his Gatherings, in the middle of it all, these
Bible characters didn’t know how their stories end. In another thought provoking
book I’ve read this year, “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church,” Paul Nixon describes
an apostolic life (both past and present) as “anything but settled,” but that’s OK.
(Surrender Means Slide) Surrender sometimes means being OK with unsettled
for a while. But not having all the answers in a given moment doesn’t need to
mean a lack of peace when you understand that God is at work doing “something
heavenly.” “It feels like chaos, but somehow there’s peace.” God gives us peace.
For some reason, whenever I’m working on a Gathering, I find myself drawn to
our Fellowship Covenant. It’s really a wonderful, inspiring document, and once
again when I pulled it up online for a look, I wasn’t disappointed. (Covenant Slide)
Our covenant talks about striving together to:
“Be Spirit-saturated, surrendering to the Holy Spirit in everything we do, as
the condition through which we more effectively accomplish our practice of
spirituality. This includes repenting of self-centeredness and surrendering to the
new birth promised through the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.”
What really jumped out at me is that surrender goes hand in hand with repenting
of self-centeredness. Or in other words, surrender is about love. (Surrender
You may remember that one of the chapter titles in Larry Richards’ book
was “Surrender and Be an Icon for Jesus!”
Here’s an example of what he meant…the theology may be a little different from what
I believe, but I appreciate the spirit of this message.
Richards writes, “I love the story of the man who was captured in World War II
and thrown in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He was treated badly, but not as
badly as another guy, a Japanese who was trying to help Americans. The captors
tortured the Japanese man every day and deprived him of food. Every day, he
would be thrown into the same cell as the American, and every day the American
would take his own food and give it to the Japanese man and try to heal his
wounds as best as possible.
One day they had tortured the Japanese man so badly that when they threw
him back in the cell with the American, the American knew that he was going to
die. So he knelt next to him, and said, ‘You know, you are probably going to die
tonight. But you don’t have to be afraid. If you just give your life to Jesus you will
You know what the Japanese man said to the American? He said, ‘If Jesus is
anything like you, I can’t wait to meet him.’
Could people say that about us?…Could they say, “If Jesus Christ is anything like
you, I can’t wait to meet him?” (pages 91-92).
Good question. We need to surrender or let a little of self die each day, so that
when people look at us they see the Christ. Perhaps what I appreciated most
about Father Richards’ book is that it helped me see that surrendering doesn’t
always have to be a big momentous thing, it can be a moment by moment, day by
day practice…a practice that God helps us with.
In an article called “The New Birth,” Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian
Science church writes, “The new birth is not the work of a moment. It begins
with moments, and goes on with years; moments of surrender to God, of childlike
trust and joyful adoption of good; moments of self-abnegation, self-consecration,
heaven-born hope, and spiritual love.”
I have one more example of surrender for you. I never thought I’d bring an Oprah
clip to a Gathering, but I think you will enjoy hearing her story. She fell in love
with the book “The Color Purple” and was ecstatic to have an opportunity to
audition for a part in the movie. Here’s what happened:
Oprah DVD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrWxNJV6jJc (3:21 – 7:37, 8:56–9:42).
I love that Oprah made a conscious effort to stick with a posture of surrender
until she felt complete peace and also felt like she could bless another person
in the role that she wanted so badly. Sometimes surrender is a repeated and/
or multistep process requiring persistence. If at first you don’t succeed…try, try
So in summary surrender means…(Summary Slide add one bullet at a time)
• Yielding one’s life to the power of God
• As I found in my approach to reading Larry Richards’ book, it means
listening for God with an open heart.
• Like Ananias it means expressing courage and trusting that God knows what
• As Sanctus Real sings, it means not being afraid if things sometimes feel a
bit unsettled or chaotic…right there we can also feel peace.
• As our covenant and the story about the man in the prisoner of war camp
indicate, surrender is all about giving up self-centeredness and loving more
day by day, moment by moment.
• And as Oprah shared, sometimes letting go takes persistence in order to
reap the fullness of the blessing.
My favorite way to end a Gathering is to take a few contemplative moments. So,
Sheri Luster is going to lead us in prayer.
Thank you Sheri.
It is now time for our offering, and while the baskets are being passed, we also
have a microphone that we can pass around if you have any stories or thoughts
on surrender that you’d like to share.
Benediction – May your life be moulded by the hand of God and your days filled
with moments of sweet surrender. Have a great week!