Baggage (Colossians 3:1-17)

In November 2001, over a hundred people attended a meeting in the gym upstairs. The purpose of the meeting was to look back on the history of the church and. with God's help, to chart a path for us to take in the future.

For part of the day, we put together a timeline of the church's history. We were given pieces of paper - yellow pieces, representing good or neutral events; pink pieces to represent painful events, and blue pieces, representing external events that affected the church. I wish I had pictures of the gym wall as it was covered with these slips of paper, but I do have the notes that were taken from the timeline. Here is how it looked.

Time Line

I know you can't read what's on all of the notes. Do you notice something, though, as you look at the timeline? There are a lot of pink or painful events. We have been around long enough as a church to have accumulated experiences that have been painful for us as a church. Our story as a church, up until this point, is incomplete unless we say that it is a story that has involved some pain.

I hadn't thought of this for a while until late last year I had dinner with one of our leaders. He mentioned the pink or painful events in our history and wisely said that we probably shouldn't have moved on in the planning process before we had dealt with these painful events in the history. The issue isn't that our story involves pain; everyone's story involves pain. The issue is if we have painful issues in our past as a church that are left unresolved. Each of these pink events has the potential to push us closer to God, but each of these pink events also has the potential to linger as unresolved issues or baggage that we carry around with us even today.

We need, we long for, community as a church. I don't think there's a person here who would argue with the fact that we've been called to love each other. We know that it's commanded by Jesus. We are to love each other, and Jesus has set the standard of how much: just as he loved us, so we are to love each other. You don't get a higher standard than this. All of us would likely nod our assent to Paul's words, that if we don't have love we are nothing. I don't think there's a person here who doesn't agree that we are called to love each other, or who doesn't long for this type of community for us as a church.

The issue, or at least one of them, is that although we want and need true community, we have baggage. We have been hurt. When we hurt we turn toward self-protection. We struggle to forgive those who have hurt us, and we no longer feel safe.

You may be here this morning and this doesn't apply to you. You don't have any baggage, at least not related to the church body. But for some of us, this is very real. If we were honest with ourselves today, we'd have to admit that we have been carrying around baggage for years related to how someone or something hurt you. This baggage may be new or it may be old. The wounds may be fresh or they may be almost healed. But I'd ask you to take a minute to identify the baggage you think you may be carrying this morning. We're not going to lay blame or tell you that you shouldn't be carrying this baggage. The hurts are real. But I would ask you to identify what baggage from the past, if any, that you are carrying today. So let's do that for a minute.

[Pause]

Now the question is, what are we going to do with this stuff? Does anyone here deny that we have baggage? Does anyone deny that this baggage gets in the way of keeping Christ's command to love each other as he has loved us? Of course it gets in the way. One of the ongoing issues that we will face is that until we deal with the baggage and hurts from the past, we will never experience the oneness that Christ prayed for. We will never be able to experience the authentic community that lets the world know that we are Christ's disciples.

If you have tried to deal with the baggage yourself, though, you know it's impossible. The reality is that some of our baggage looks like this: it's chained to our wrists. We would like to get rid of it but we can't. We don't have the power. We're cursed to carry it with us until someone else comes and unlocks the key that keeps it shackled to us.

I'm going to suggest this morning that getting rid of our baggage is absolutely essential. My friend was right - we can't move on as a church until we deal with this stuff that's accumulated. I'm also going to suggest that there's a way that we can get rid of the baggage, but it won't be through dealing with the problem ourselves. You can drop the luggage but it will be dragging behind you until the handcuff is unlocked, and you can't do that for yourself. But there is a way for us to experience the freedom of dropping our baggage. There is a way to be unchained and to experience true freedom and to begin to move toward true community. Today I want to describe what that is, and then invite you to begin the process yourself.

Scythians Among Us

Please turn in your Bibles to Colossians 3. We're going to read verses 5 to 15:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

I want to zero in on one group of people that Paul mentions in verse 11: Scythians. Most of the time we read over this and get the general idea without necessarily understanding exactly who the Scythians are.

I had a teacher explain to me a little about the Scythians once. It was almost twenty years ago, but I've never forgotten. I'm going to read you the quote that he gave us. It's from the historian Herodotus, who is lived in the 5th century BC and is called the father of history. Here's how he describes the Scythians:

In what concerns war, their customs are the following. The Scythian soldier drinks the blood of the first man he overthrows in battle. Whatever number he slays, he cuts off all their heads, and carries them to the king... [the passage then describes how the Scythian soldier scalps his victim and how he uses the scalp as a napkin or cloak]

The skulls of their enemies, not indeed of all, but of those whom they most detest, they treat as follows. Having sawn off the portion below the eyebrows, and cleaned out the inside, they cover the outside with leather. When a man is poor, this is all that he does; but if he is rich, he also lines the inside with gold: in either case the skull is used as a drinking-cup. They do the same with the skulls of their own kith and kin if they have been at feud with them, and have vanquished them in the presence of the king. When strangers whom they deem of any account come to visit them, these skulls are handed round, and the host tells how that these were his relations who made war upon him, and how that he got the better of them; all this being looked upon as proof of bravery.

So you get the idea of who these Scythians were. The soldiers scalped victims and used the scalps for napkins and clothes. And if you went to his house you may have a skull of one of his relatives passed around and hear how he won the family fight.

By the time that Paul wrote these words, hundreds of years had passed, but the view of Scythians had not really changed. Scythian was a word that people used for the savage and uncivilized. Scythians were known for their brutality and were considered as little better than wild beasts. They were generally considered the most barbaric, cruel and anti-Greek people.

Now read verses 11 to 14 again in light of this:

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Now, either Paul is making something up, or else there is something at work within the church that can take a Scythian and put him within a church and say that all the divisions and all the baggage that separate a Scythian from the rest of us are gone. Paul says that in Christ, the differences have been obliterated.

Is there baggage when you are in authentic community with Scythians? You had better believe it. But Paul says that there is something that can overcome that baggage, so that the church can be full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness that can overcome grudges. There's something that can bring love.

So what is this? Because I'm sure that if this power has the power to overcome the baggage of Scythians in the church, this same power can liberate us from our baggage and allow us to overcome the baggage from our past. What is it? What has the power to liberate us?

Freedom from our Baggage

Before we look at what it is that can liberate us from our baggage, I want to come back to our situation. Last week I spoke on the one thing that truly matters, and that's that we love one another. Someone said after the service that they agree that this is the one thing that really matters. They said, though, that they don't think it can happen here.

I agree. It's impossible for us to overcome our baggage and to become an authentic community of love, just in the same way that it's impossible for a community to exist in which there "is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free." It's impossible on a human level, but Paul says it's not only possible, it's reality. We don't have to get to this point. We are already here. We don't have to make it possible to release our baggage. Paul says it's already happened.

So if you say it's impossible for us to get rid of our baggage, I agree on a human level. But Paul says there is something that not only makes it possible, but it's already happened.

What is it that liberates us from our baggage? What is it that can make community possible when we have hurts from the past? What can make a church in which there are no barriers between Scythians and Greeks, between slaves and masters, between young and old, between those who have hurt us and those who have been hurt? What can obliterate all the barriers that divide us?

Paul says in verse 11, "but Christ is all, and is in all." Verses 1-3 say:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Here's what Paul says is real. You have been raised with Christ. Your old nature has died. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. You don't have to earn this. This is what Paul says is already true about you. You have a power that is more than adequate as a check against the appetites and attitudes of the lower nature, because you have union with Christ.

And Paul says that when a group of people come together for whom this is true, then "Christ is all, and is in all." In Jesus all differences merge, all distinctions are done away. Loyalty to Christ takes precedence over all earthly ties and overcomes all obstacles.

So what has the power to liberate us from our baggage? The Gospel. We don't have to free ourselves from our baggage. Jesus has already freed us. What is humanly possible for us to do has already been done. All that we have to do now is live it.

So here's where we end up today. Jesus commanded us to love one another. His one concern is that we love each other to the extent that Jesus loved us. It is his one concern, his one command, his one prayer for us, that we love one another.

But we think we can't do it, and we're right. We have been hurt and we have accumulated baggage. We therefore can't do the very thing that is most important to Christ, which is to love each other, because of all of this baggage.

Then Paul comes along and says, "You're right, you can't do it. But I know a power which can set you free from the baggage. I know a power than will enable you to take off anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language like dirty clothes. And I know a power that will enable you to overcome all the baggage and clothe yourself clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. And that power is the Gospel," Paul says. "Your problem isn't the baggage. Your problem is that you aren't taking advantage of what Christ has done for you. Your problem isn't the baggage. Your problem is a Gospel problem. You need to come back to the Gospel."

Next week we're going to look at how to begin the process of forgiveness. I'm not minimizing the hurt or the process. Next week we're going to look at this.

But today I'm calling us to do something with our baggage, and it's this: to bring it to the cross. Remember I asked you earlier to identify what baggage you're carrying? This morning I'm going to ask you to come, to pick up one of these bags sitting at the front of the auditorium, and to bring it up here and release it as a statement that you are willing to let go of the baggage, to let go of the old nature, and to let Christ set us free.

It's time to let go of the baggage. The only way we can do this is through Christ. what has the power to liberate us from our baggage? The Gospel. Let's bring our baggage to the Gospel this morning and be set free.

The One Thing (John 13:34-35; John 17)

One of my favorite business authors wrote a book that came out last year called The One Thing You Need to Know. The book is an attempt to dig into a subject deeply, to get to the core of the matter, to cut through all the clutter and zero in on the one controlling insight that really matters. He describes the one thing you need to know in three areas: managing, leading, and sustained individual success. It's not a bad book at all.

I appreciate the effort to cut through all the clutter and get to the heart of an issue. When done well, that type of focus can really help to make life manageable.

I guess I could save you a lot of time and tell you the one thing that he says you need to know to achieve sustained individual success. Okay, I'll tell you. He argues that the one thing you need to know about sustained individual success is to "discover what you don't like doing and stop doing it." I'm trying this out. In fact, as of this year I've stopped shoveling my driveway. It's too soon to say if it's made me more successful or not. I'll let you know, I promise.

This morning, though, I want to ask you an even more important question. The question is this:

What is the one word that captures God's dream for human beings? What is one word that gets to the heart of God's dreams for us as his people? What one word captures God's hope for you and me?

I am going to give you a few minutes to answer this with three or four people around you. [Discussion]

Okay, what did you come up with? [holiness, worship, love...]

I'm going to suggest that we answer this question by going to one of the most poignant sections of Scripture. Jesus was coming close to the end of his earthly ministry. He gathered his closest friends together for one last meal. Everyone knew that something was up. We read of this moment:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

In other words, Jesus showed them the extent of his love for them. He opened his heart to his disciples and friends. He opened his heart by giving his friends a practical demonstration of his love, by speaking openly about what was on his heart, and by letting them eavesdrop on his prayer at this crucial moment.

So the question is: as Jesus opened his heart to his followers, and as history was rushing toward its focal point in the death and resurrection of Jesus, what was Jesus concerned about? What is at the top of Jesus' mind as he thought of us?

As history was rushing to its climax, Jesus had one persistent concern. It's the one thing that he's concerned about for us. I think you could be so bold as to say it's the one thing that we need to know about God's dream for us as human beings. Let's look together to find out what it is. Please open a Bible with me as we look together at the Gospel of John. We're going to be looking at sections within John 13-17.

The One Act

I find that whenever I have something important to say, it's not enough to say it once. My kids are teaching me this lesson. If you say something important once, chances are it won't be heard. If you repeatedly say something important the same way, chances are a little bit better that it will be remembered. But if you really want to say something important, and you want others to remember, the best way is to say it repeatedly and in different ways.

That's exactly what Jesus does. There is something that is important, that captures the heart of his dream for us. But he doesn't say it just once. He says it a number of times and in different ways. He shared his concern through one action, through one commandment, and through one prayer. When you get to the bottom of it, Jesus was saying the same thing multiple ways so we would really get it.

So let's look at these three ways that Jesus communicated his dream with us. The first way that he communicated is with one action. John 13 says:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them.

"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

So here's the question: what one thing is on Jesus teaching us through his action here? What concern is on Jesus' mind as he teaches his disciples through this action? Take a moment and see if you can come up with an answer with a few people around you. [Discussion]

Okay, so what did you come up with? What is Jesus trying to teach us by washing the disciple's feet? [to serve one another, to put each other first...]

The key, I think, is found in the first verse. "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." The act of washing the disciple's feet, which was normally done by a servant, was meant to demonstrate his love through a selfless act of service. It was about much more than about feet. It was a prophetic act that anticipated his upcoming death. Jesus says in verse 15, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

So if you summarize this one act in one word it would be this: love. But not the mushy type of love that makes you tingle or warm inside. It's the type of love that gets you down on the ground doing something that's demeaning, that you don't really feel like doing. It's the type of love that involves a willingness to die for each other if that's what it takes.

What one word captures Jesus' dreams for us, as communicated by this action? It's that we follow his example in loving one another, and that we take that love as far as you can take it. How far can we take it? According to Jesus, you take it as far as he did: to death. Jesus' one dream, his one concern for us as he opened his heart on that last night, is that we love each other, to death if that's what it takes.

The One Command

So that's the one act, the first way that Jesus tells us what's on his mind. He showed it. The best leaders and communicators communicate through their lives. They set the example. And so Jesus communicated his concern for us, his dream for us, in the most convincing way possible. He communicated it by living it, and even more powerfully, by dying for it.

But there's more. Sometimes people don't understand it if you don't explain. So as Jesus opens his heart, he puts his dream, his one concern, into words so that there's no mistaking what he's thinking about. Look at John 13:34-35 with me. Jesus says:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

And then Jesus repeats himself in the next chapter: "This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:17).

This is the commandment that Jesus left for us to follow as his followers: to love one another. He communicated it by his actions, and then he spelled it out for us in words. He wants us to love one another.

I guess one question that comes to mind is what Jesus meant by saying this was a "new commandment." It wasn't really new in the sense that it hadn't been given before. The disciples probably would have known that Leviticus 19:18 says, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord."

It wasn't even new in the sense that Jesus hadn't talked about it before. You may remember the story of Jesus being asked the greatest command of the 613 that were given in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus said:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

So this type of command wasn't entirely new.

What is new, though, is the mode, depth, and extent of this type of love. Jesus said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Here's what's new: the standard for this kind of love. We are to love one another, and the standard is Jesus' love for us.

If I ask myself how much I should love each of you, the standard used to be that I have to love you as I love myself. That is a fairly high standard, because most of us have no problem loving ourselves. We used to be called to love each other as much as we love our own lives.

But Jesus raises the standard. The new standard is that we are called to love each other to the extent that Jesus loves us. How much does Jesus love us? So much that he gave his life for us. The new standard, the new command, is that we love each other so radically that we are willing to lay down our lives for each other. Jesus says in John 15:12-13:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Here's how we know we're going far enough in loving each other: are you willing to die for another Christian? Take a look around you today. Would you be willing to give up your life for the sake of any follower of Jesus Christ you see around you?

This is what Jesus communicated as his one dream, his one hope and concern for us as he opened his heart that last night before he was crucified.

The One Prayer

So far we've looked at God's hope and dream for us as revealed in the night that Jesus opened up his heart and demonstrated, through actions and words, what was on his mind. But Jesus did something else that night to communicate what was on his mind. He let his disciples eavesdrop as he prayed. The prayer found in John 17 has been called "a summation of his whole ministry, a legacy he entrusted to the Father in the presence of his followers as witnesses" (Gilbert Bilezikian, Community 101).

So this is not just any old prayer. This prayer is the summation of Jesus' whole life and ministry.

We know that Jesus often prayed. What's rare about this prayer is that it's one of only a few times that we get to listen on as Jesus carries on a private conversation with his Father. And what is on Jesus' mind as he prays?

Well, he prays for protection for his followers. But the protection was not to spare them from danger, want, or even persecution. Jesus prayed for protection so that his followers would be able to achieve the same kind of oneness that exists between Jesus and his Father. Jesus prayed: "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:11). In other words, Jesus isn't as concerned about our comfort or our physical safety as he is about our oneness. What matters to Jesus is that we have the same type of relationship with each other as he has with his Father.

Then Jesus goes on to include us in his prayer. He moves beyond thinking about his immediate disciples to all believers of all times throughout the future of the church. Jesus says in verses 20-23:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-- I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus wasn't, I think, praying for organizational oneness, or that we all look and act alike. What he was praying for is that his followers would band together in communities that would reflect the authentic oneness that he and his Father shared, so that our witness to the world would be effective. He wanted us to be one, to be united in purpose.

Gilbert Bilezikian writes:

[Jesus] knew that if the church should fail to demonstrate community to the world, it would fail to accomplish its mission because the world would have reason to disbelieve the gospel. According to that prayer, the most convincing proof of the truth of the gospel is the perceptible oneness of his followers.

In our day, whenever the church is ineffective and its witness remains unproductive, the first questions that must be raised are whether the church functions as authentic community and whether it lives out the reality of its oneness...the most potent means of witness to the truth of the gospel is the magnetic power of the oneness that was committed by Christ to his new community at the center of history. (Community 101)

Putting It Together

So here's the question again: what one word captures God's dream, God's hope, for us? The one word is this: love. Jesus opened up his heart to his followers, and through an action, a command, and a prayer, he revealed to us his primary concern for us: that we love one another to the extent that he loved us.

God's hope for us is that we love one another.

The question I want to leave with you is this: if God's heart for Richview is that we become famous in the world for how we love each other - and that is God's heart and vision for our church - then what does this mean for us practically? If God's dream for us is that we love each other so much that we're willing to die for each other, how then shall we live?

Over the next few weeks, we'll be exploring some of what this means. In the next couple of weeks we're going to look at some of the barriers that keep us from loving each other like this. Next week in particular, I'm hoping to talk about a Richview-specific barrier that makes this tough. I hope you'll join me these next few weeks as we focus on this, because if we fail at this as a church, we fail at everything. This is the one thing we need to know about God's heart for our church. It's that we love each other in a radical way, so much so that the world will stop and take notice and say, "Look at how much they love each other."

But today, let me ask you to answer this one question. What one word captures God's heart for us? Let's say it together: Love. What did Jesus pray for as he looked ahead in history to the time that we would be alive? That we would be one, that we would love one another. What is God's vision for Richview? That we love one another.

Somebody has said, "When the world sees a church from which selfishness is banished, they will acknowledge the divine mission of Christ because he was wrought such a wonder, a community of men [and women] who truly and heartily love one another."

I hope you'll come back next week as we begin to look at how we can do this. But I want to leave you with some homework this week, because I know that we all love homework. As we've looked at what Jesus said, I think we realize that there's not a chance that we can meet this standard of love by ourselves. If we try to love each other like this on our own strength, we'll fail every time. So here's what I want to ask you to do: to do what Jesus did and pray about it. Would you pray at least three times this week that God would make us one, that he would make us into the kind of church which loves each other just as Jesus loves us?

Father, this is what it's all about. Your dream for us is that we would become an authentic, genuine community of disciples who love each other. "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1)

Lord, make it so. Help us as we embark on this journey of learning what it means to love each other. Make it so the world would take notice. We can only do this because of the Gospel and in your power, so we pray for your help. In Jesus' name, Amen.

What Failure Teaches Us (Mark 9:14-29)

A while back, I took golf lessons. The instructor told us that anybody can golf if they learn the fundamentals. I believed him too!

He would give us something to practice and then walk around and watch him. I still remember him when we came to watch me. He didn't say a word, but he walked away slowly shaking his head. I think I may have changed his mind about anyone being able to play golf.

A golf club may look like part of a hobby to you, but to me it looks like an instrument of torture.

I want to talk to you about failures. I failed at golf, but a lot of times our failures are a lot more significant than that. Where is it right now that you feel like a failure in your life? Is there a relationship you can't fix? A habit you can't break? A sin that you can't conquer? Could it be that God is trying to teach us something in our failures?

There's a story in the Bible about the disciples failing. Jesus had just been transfigured on the mountain. He was revealed in all his glory. When he returned to his disciples he found them fighting. Listen to what happened:

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:14-29)

The disciples failed, and Jesus is annoyed. I'm struck with a question as I read this story. What is the problem? What did the disciples do wrong?

We find out later in the story. Jesus heals the boy. Later, the disciples are alone with Jesus and they ask him why they couldn't heal the boy:

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:28-29)

It seems that the disciples did something that we do all the time. They forgot to pray. They took God's power for granted and tried to handle things on their own. And they failed.

So here's the question: What failures are you and I facing because we're not tapping into God's power?

I don't know what failures you're facing in your life. I know that my tendency is to try to handle things on my own. We default into trying harder and trying to handle things on our own.

The end result is that we fail. We can't pull it off. As with the disciples, we experience consequences - not just ourselves, but in our ability to minister to others.

The alternative, Jesus says, is to return to God and to tap into his power. It's to return to God and rely on him for what he alone can do. Which is exactly why we need prayer, and why we also need communion.

The failures and sins in our lives won't be conquered by trying harder. I'm not saying that we don't play a role. But we will never be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We can only overcome failure in our lives by what Jesus did on the cross.

Our sins and failures often make us want to run the other away from God and the cross. This story teaches us that our failures and sins should drive us back to God and his power, back to the cross.

So as we come to the communion table this morning, I want to ask you. Where are you failing in your life? Your marriage, a relationship, a sin that you can't conquer? What is that area of failure? Bring it to the cross this morning. Why did you think you could handle it on your own? This type can only come out through prayer. This type can only be handled by what Jesus has done at the cross. So let's come to the cross this morning, not just for forgiveness, but to receive all that we need to live.