Did anyone time our Announcements last week? They seemed to go on forever, didn’t they? It reminded me of a song we used to sing at summer camp: “Announcements, announcements, announcements. A terrible death to die, a terrible death to die…” I don’t know what comes after that, because the announcements would usually begin at that point and we’d promptly fall asleep. But seriously. That was a lot of announcements last week. I’m not scolding anyone; I was one of the biggest culprits.
It did get me thinking, though. It seems like a lot is going on here for a fairly small faith community. I mean, a lot. On the one hand, that feels good. We’re a diverse congregation with diverse interests. We’re full of life and doing very good things. On the other hand, though, I wonder if, in the midst of our busy-ness, we’re taking time to rest.
There’s a lot going on in today’s Gospel lesson…Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law; she gets up immediately to offer hospitality; people bring loved ones from miles around so that Jesus can heal them. A lot is going on in these verses…
…but the most astounding thing—at least to this inhabitant of the activity-plagued 21st century—is the fact that Jesus stepped out of all the crazy-ness for a time to be silent and pray and rest. Even more astounding is the fact that the Gospel writer thought it important enough to report: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (1:35)
Do you do that? Do you ever step out of the crazyness of activity and Facebook and email and soccer practice and work and chores to simply sit…and breathe…and be?
Elizabeth Canham had just been ordained a priest in 1982. She’d had to leave her nativeEnglandand come to the States for the ordination because the Church of England still refused to ordain women.
Back inEnglandafter her ordination,Elizabethprepared to participate in a communion service with other clergy. She writes: “The previous months had been filled with feverish activity–preparing for the ordination, receiving friends who crossed the Atlantic to share the occasion, dealing with media representatives who wanted to create headline stories because I was the first woman from the Church of England to become a priest in the Episcopal Church, after specifically leaving ‘home’ to do so.
“It had been a breathless time of excitement, hope, and fulfilment. I had returned toEnglandfor what I thought would be a rest. Instead I had been swamped by invitations and requests. I had already celebrated one Eucharist at the Deanery for about fifty supporters of the Movement for the Ordination of Women. At the same time, TV and radio stations besieged me with requests for interviews.
“As we gathered at the Dean’s home, the clergymen offered me affirmation and hope for a more inclusive Church of England…Then one of them, rector of a nearby parish, asked if I had some time to spare following the service. Anxious to respond to the needs of others and to further the ‘cause,’ I said yes. Later that morning we walked through theLondonstreets and into the crypt of his centuries-old church. We passed through the court of Arches that had witnessed ecclesiastical trials of past ages and into a small, sparsely furnished worship space. A plain altar, cross, and muted light drew me into a quiet space, and my friend sat down beside me.
“Expecting my friend to ask for something, I waited, tense, ready to respond. Instead the silence grew, and I began to sense a loving, prayerful presence as this priest wordlessly invited me into a resting place. When I realized that he was not asking me to provide something but to receive a gift, tears began to flow. In this period of intense activity I had forgotten to stop, to wait, and to be open to the renewing power of restful presence, the Sabbath time with which the Creator gifted humankind at the beginning of all things.” (Heart Whispers, pp.99-100)
Are you forgetting to stop? Are you forgetting to rest? In another place, Rev. Canham says: “There is a subtle arrogance in the failure to claim rest—I am so important I have no time for rest—and (in colluding) with the contemporary world that rewards busy-ness but neglects time for and with the Creator.” (103) Do you long for some quiet time with your Creator?
Tell you what…let’s dim these lights (lights dim)…. let’s settle into our seats…. Close your eyes if you want… breathe in deeply… let it out slowly… and enjoy some Sabbath time with your Creator…or simply be…
(5 minutes of silence…)
I invite you to take a minute to come back to this place, with these friends. It’s what Jesus did after his quiet time. His disciples found him, told him they’d been missing him. Jesus didn’t yell at them for interrupting his time with God. No, it’s like because of his time of rest with God, he was now able, ready, and willing to continue his work with the disciples. “’Let us go on to the neighboring towns,’” he says, “’so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughoutGalilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.” Jesus’ time apart strengthened him to continue the important work he had to do.
What insights or strength might you gain from spending time apart with your Creator? What insights or strength might we gain as a community if we—as a community–spend time apart with God?
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2012
As soon as they* left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.