How to Have Energy for the New Year, Part 1:
How to Release the Burdens from Your Backpack
January 13, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
3a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
5Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:
6I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
7to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.
9See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
This week, and for the remaining Sundays in January, I’d like to talk with you about “How to Have Energy for the New Year.” And who among us doesn’t need that, right? After all we’ve had to do through the Christmas season, we’re at the threshold of a brand new year of experience, and we all need energy. The Bible has special insights for us on how we can have energy, so let’s talk about it these weeks.
I’d like to talk with you today about one way to achieve this new energy. So the title for today is “How to Release the Burdens from Your Backpack.” You know, when I was a boy, there were many things that were not yet invented – the computer, the iPod, cell phones, and the wheel. Well, yes, cars had wheels, and bicycles had wheels. But you know what didn’t have wheels? Luggage. No one had thought yet to put wheels on luggage, so people walked around airports, believe it or not, with very heavy suitcases, usually brown with reddish trim, that they carried by the handle.
And wheels had not yet been invented for book bags. So when kids went to school in those days, we didn’t have those wonderful book bags with the telescoping handles and the wheels. We didn’t have anything like that. What we had were elastic straps with a little metal hook that went around – I know you don’t remember this – to hold the books together, and you carried them in front of you or under your arm. That’s if you were in public school. If you were in Catholic school, you had book bags. Mine was maroon and orange, with the name of the school on the bag. We had to carry it; there was no wheeling it around.
The other thing we didn’t have was backpacks. You know how kids now have backpacks that they put on their shoulders. Some would wonder whether that’s good or bad. But anyway, it sure beats carrying it by the handle.
I would suggest to you this morning that each of us has a backpack. Each of us has an emotional and mental backpack that we strap on when we get out of bed in the morning and start thinking about the day, and we carry it throughout the day.
What’s in the backpack? Your tools, your ideas, your training, your insights, and your courage to go into the world are in your backpack. All the things that carry you through the day are in your backpack, and you strap it on and carry it on through. I think each and every one of us has something like that.
But I suggest to you this: there may be too much in the backpack, if your backpack is weighted down with stumbling stones. If your backpack is weighted down with fear and hurt, with wounds and regrets, they’re like great big, heavy stones, and when you put the backpack on in the morning, you put them on, too. It zaps your energy. It pulls you away from the path that God would have you take. What’s in your backpack? Do you need to take some stones out?
This came true for me not long ago in a conversation I had with a wonderful church leader. I’m going to tell you about that in just a second. But first, let’s take a look at today’s scripture, Isaiah 42:1-9, this incredibly powerful reading from Isaiah. Could you imagine what it was like to be Isaiah? This insightful elder of the temple – he had insights from God about the coming Messiah, but he lived hundreds of years before Jesus came. He didn’t have Jesus, like you do, like I do. But he had insights from God about what Jesus would be like and about what life could be like for God’s people with Jesus. Wow! What a remarkable talent he had! Could you imagine what it was like to have thought the thoughts that he thought? Let’s listen to some of them. I’ll just read here and there.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights,” says the Lord. “I have put my spirit upon him.”
Jump down to verse 3. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.” Is that you, friend? A bruised reed? A flickering wick, fragile and almost out but not quite? Jesus is the one who can make it strong again.
Verse 5: “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you.” That’s how God talks.
Jump down to verse 9. “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”
That’s the verse I want to zero in on today, friends. “See, the former things have come to pass.” That’s what I want you to take into the week with you. Repeat that phrase to yourself. Take it into the week. “The former things have come to pass.” Let’s talk about it, because the former things are the stones in your backpack.
As I was saying, I had a wonderful conversation with one of our church leaders some time ago. He first was coming into his position in the church, a very crucial and delicate position. I scheduled a meeting with him, because I wanted to tell him what he was walking into. I wanted to tell him what was going on. I wanted to tell him the history, tell him what things had been like over the past ten years, so he’d have some background and insight into the position he was assuming.
So, I scheduled a 45 minute meeting with him so I could tell him all this stuff. We sat down and started to talk. I started to tell him how things are and what it’s been like. And about five minutes into the conversation, he smiled at me, in a very warm and gentle and gracious way. He said, “Pastor, I deeply respect all you’re telling me, and I thank you. I know that what you’re telling me is important. But Pastor, that was then, and this is now. What would you like to do, and where would you like to see the church go?”
Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that absolutely fantastic? I sat there for a second, and then I just had to laugh. I said, “Thank you so much!” We both had a good laugh. We saved each other 40 minutes! We talked about what he invited me to talk about, and it was good, and I am deeply grateful.
Are there stones in your backpack that you need to take out and look at? I don’t know what your stones are called, but I’ll give you two examples of what they might be. One is regrets, and the other is wounds.
One of those big stones in your backpack might be wounds. What is that? That’s how people might have hurt you. That’s how people might have put a damper on your spirit. That’s how people might have caused you pain, or how you might have perceived people to. The difficulty with that is that if we put that on every morning and take it into our day and remember how hurt we are and how wounded we feel and how difficult people made life for us, it will zap our energy. It will take our energy away. The energy that God gives us every morning could be diverted into just carrying that around.
Is it time, my friend? Is today the day that you take that stone out of your backpack? Look at it and say yeah, those hurts are there. They’re real. But I’ve dealt with them. I’ve talked about them. I’ve learned from them. And now it’s time to put them by the side of the road. Put that stumbling stone where it can’t hurt anybody anymore. Is today the day? Your backpack will be lighter if you do.
How about regrets? I wish I had done this… I wish I had invested in property 15 years ago… I wish I had bought stock when it was selling cheap… I wish I had taken that window of opportunity. I wish; I wish; I regret; if only. Are you carrying that into the future? Is that holding you back from the brilliant new day that God is putting in front of you now? Then maybe today is the day to go into your backpack and take out that stone of regret. Say, I did the best I could with what I had to work with at the time. I learned from this. And I don’t need to carry this stone around anymore. Thank you for the blessing you’ve been; I can now put this stone on the side of the road, and my backpack will be lighter.
Do you need to get God’s energy by laying aside the things that are taking away energy right now? I’ll bet you can do it. I’ll bet you can reach into that backpack and take those things out. Let the past be the past, the negativity of the past be just that, and let the energy of the future be with you.
My friends, the scripture says, “See, the former things have come to pass.” I think ‘come to pass’ means two things. ‘Come to pass’ means ‘not here to stay.’ ‘Come to pass’ means they are part of the flow. They are gone now. That is part of the meaning. And if you’re going through a stumbling stone time now, remember that it is ‘come to pass’; it’s not here to stay.
Secondly, ‘come to pass’ also means ‘like passing a test.’ They’ve come to help you pass a test. Have they helped you pass a test? Are you wiser because of what you went through? Are you more experienced because of what you went through? Have those stones on your back made you stronger? I’ll bet they have. Maybe they don’t serve the purpose anymore. Maybe now is the time to say, “Thank you, God, for the wisdom that these stones have brought me. Thank you, God, for the strength that these stones have brought me. Now it is time to take them out, and to realize that they have come to pass. They are in the past; they have helped me pass the test, and I got an ‘A’.” And set the stones aside.
Well, my dear friends, as I go home today, as I head out the church driveway, make the right turn and drive down Sunset Road, and as others of you go down the other way, I expect that we’ll see by the side of the road lots of stones from folks from this church who have cast them aside and are traveling lighter because of it.
Now, if the stones are out of your backpack, what shall we put in to replace them? Ah, look at the time! We have to come back next week to find out, don’t we? Let’s talk about that next week – more energy for your new year. May your week and your days ahead be lighter ones, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski