Between rest and action –
Too busy to follow Jesus?
Kirche am Bahnhof, October 15, 2023
- The alarm clock is ringing.
- Quickly check my messages.
- Off to the bathroom.
- Just look at your cell phone.
- Prepare slices of bread,
- Eat something between the door and the hinge.
- Write to Stefan quickly.
- Crap, a little late again.
- Off to the car, a little too fast, what’s the snoring nose doing in front of me, I have to go to work.
- Phew, just in time.
- Take a quick look at your cell phone.
- Man, 10 new messages again.
- Meetings, deadlines, handling work orders from the boss.
- Something additional.
- Whether I can stay longer.
- I have no idea, it will work somehow.
- Immediately made an appointment with Melanie.
- Do laundry in between.
- Damn, where is my cell phone again.
- My apartment needs to be cleaned up again. Doesn’t matter.
- Then to the gym.
- Watched the latest series on the stepper and called Karl and Jürgen.
- Ouch, I’m getting older too.
- The weights were also lighter.
- Relax in the shower for 5 minutes.
- In the evening in bed I quickly checked a few messages to see what was going on in the world.
- I can not sleep.
- Half asleep, go through tomorrow’s day and the next weekend.
- Oh, I completely forgot to read the Bible.
- Well, Jesus, you get the idea.
- My day was so full.
I don’t know if this sounds familiar to you.
We are starting today with a very challenging service series for me, which probably affects almost all of us:
Between calm and action.
And we will be dealing with various topics until mid-November.
We live in a time characterized by speed and hectic pace.
We find it difficult to calm down externally and internally. More and more people feel exhausted and not rested.
Futurologists have predicted that today we will be more relaxed than ever before and have less to do than ever before in the history of humanity.
For example, the founder of my former employer started to provide relief for housewives. And so there were a bunch of inventions to make our lives easier, so that we no longer have to do a lot of things because machines do it for us. The result is: We fill our time with other things.
It actually started in 1370, when the first public clock tower was built in Cologne. Before that, of course, was the time. It was linked to the seasons and the rhythm of the sun and moon. The clock suddenly created an artificial time instead of paying attention to our bodies and the environment.
Then Edison came along in 1879 and invented the light bulb, which made it possible to stay productive even after the sun went down. Before Edison, people slept an average of 11 hours.
Ok, he also did more physical work. A century ago the average was around 9 ½ hours, today it is 7.
Technology enables us to do a lot of things faster, to get from A to B quicker, or even to get there, to communicate quicker. If someone doesn’t respond within a few minutes we get nervous.
A letter used to take a few weeks. Leisure used to be a sign of prosperity, today it is busyness. I am who, I am important, I have so much to do.
The year 2007 was particularly drastic. The year in which Steve Jobs brought the first iPhone onto the market. Since then, the world has changed radically in just a few years. Our attention span has plummeted. A study conducted revealed that the average smartphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day. Each user spends 2 ½ hours on their smartphone, younger people and millennials spend twice as much. This does not take into account any other internet time, let alone Netflix and Co.
Restlessness kills joy, gratitude and appreciation.
People who are in a hurry don’t have time to dwell on the good of the moment. Restlessness kills wisdom.
John Mark Comer, whose many thoughts in this series come from his book The End of Restlessness , writes:
Wisdom is born in silence, in slowness. Restlessness kills inner peace.
Rushing kills relationships. Because love takes time. So does our relationship with Jesus
Corrie ten Boom once said: If the enemy can’t make you sin, he’ll keep you busy.
And the psychologist Carl Jung puts it this way: haste is not the enemy, haste is the enemy.
Here are a few symptoms of restlessness that might make you wonder where you stand:
Irritability and hypersensitivity:
All it takes is one little thing to throw you off track, ruin your day, or make you explode. You get angry or frustrated way too quickly.
Restlessness and insomnia:
If you want to rest, you can’t relax. You have to constantly keep yourself busy or entertained. As soon as you sit down you reach for your cell phone. When you go to sleep, you have so much going on in your head that you lie awake for hours.
You can’t stop working. Your family or your children only get what’s left of you at the end of the day, and that’s usually the grumpy, gruff, overtired you. You no longer have the capacity to be present and attentive
Callousness and flight behavior:
You no longer have the capacity to feel the pain of others or how you yourself are feeling. You’re running away from yourself. You numb yourself with distractions that don’t really let you relax and aren’t good for you.
You feel disconnected from your identity and calling. Your life is reactive and not proactive, you’re running on a hamster wheel. Next week will be better!
Neglect of the body:
You don’t have time to sleep or exercise. Your diet is unhealthy
Neglect of spiritual life:
The things that are most important to our soul are somehow always the first to fall behind. What allows us to calm down requires a little emotional energy and self-discipline in the beginning, but we often don’t have that anymore.
You withdraw from others and feel disconnected from God and your own soul.
Our soul shows us that something is wrong. Often due to exaggerated fears
Michael Zigarelli, (nothing to do with Zigarillo) writes:
It may be that Christians are adapting to a culture of busyness, hecticness and overload. This results in God becoming more and more marginalized in the lives of Christians, which causes the relationship with God to deteriorate, which causes Christians to become even more vulnerable to adopting secular dictates for how they do have to live, which leads to even more adaptation to a culture of busyness, hecticness and overload. And then the cycle begins again.
You can see that this is going to be an exciting series.
And today the question is: Too busy to follow Jesus?
There is an incident in the Bible where this very question is addressed. It is found in Luke 10:38-42 :
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Maria and Martha, between rest and action.
Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and Martha works. After all, Jesus was visiting with his disciples. So that was at least 13 people who had to be entertained. Martha put in a lot of work, which is emphasized here. It’s not that Martha wouldn’t have liked to sit there, but as an older person she is responsible for the care. And I can well imagine what that looked like:
She works in the kitchen, and works and works, and sees Maria just sitting there lazily. So it clatters a little louder in the kitchen. Maria doesn’t react. Martha places the pot on the plate a little louder. Maria doesn’t react. Finally Martha gets angry and blurts out:
Jesus, you tell her! Maria is just sitting here, that’s probably not possible.
He doesn’t hit on Martha. He does not criticize their service. He also doesn’t question her love for him because she doesn’t sit with him. He addresses her lovingly: “Martha, Martha.”
Almost as if he wanted to say: It’s ok. You have done a valuable job and I thank you for it. But Martha, you worry about so many things. And you forgot that it’s not about perfect hospitality and you, but about your guest. Maria recognized this.
When we read this story, the question quickly arises.
What is this actually about? Work or prayer, sitting at Jesus’ feet. Is it a case of either or, good and better? There is a danger that we will play the two off against each other. But if we look at the scope of the story:
At the beginning of chapter 10, Luke describes how Jesus sends his disciples to go through the villages. They should spread the good news of God’s offer of reconciliation with him. It’s about mission, about the mission we have as a church. To work so that God’s kingdom expands and people hear the good news.
This is immediately followed by a conversation with a scribe who asks Jesus who his neighbor is.
Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. That we should help our neighbors. A commandment from God to love your neighbor, to be active, to do something. This is an immediate part of faith. Then the story with Maria and Martha. And immediately afterward in Luke 11, a disciple’s request to Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Here Luke draws a line from work to prayer. And this story is right at the intersection.
So what becomes clear is that it’s not about work or prayer. Work is part of faith. We have been sent to help. Later, Jesus tells the parable about the talents entrusted to us that we are to use. We cannot use Mary as an excuse not to work. And it is not becoming of a Christian not to work, not to make a living, nor to stay out of work in his kingdom. We will come back to this in another sermon. But, and this is the great danger: We are in danger of overemphasizing work, busyness and neglecting other things, especially our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus invites us:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
You know, in connection with the coming of the Messiah, the prophet promises the following:
For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
The driver’s stick is broken!
Jesus invites us to come to him. With him we can let go of what burdens us. Our worries, our needs, our stress. We can find peace in his presence. He promises us that. With him we find life in abundance, joy, which is what we talked about at the church camp, and peace. We can recharge so that our soul feels good again.
But Jesus says something else about this:
Take my yoke upon you. The yoke is a linkage placed between the two animals. And what’s happening here is that they’re both pulling in the same direction.
If we imagine this transferred to God, then it is not a burden that is placed on us here. Jesus says his yoke is light because he, let’s imagine him in the picture as a huge bull and next to him as a small one, he pulls the cart. What the picture says is that Jesus wants to guide us through life, that he knows how to succeed, that we ask about him and that we learn from him. Both are part of laying down burdens and taking up the yoke in order to find the rest that Jesus promises us.
If we want to experience the life that Jesus experienced, then we must adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.
If we look at the life of Jesus:
Can you look at a stressed out Jesus, one who hits Mary Magdalene after a long day?
Can you hear him say: I’m sorry, I’d like to heal your leg but I still have to catch the plane and I don’t have time.
Or can you see him talking to him while he taps on his iPhone and then looks at you with wide eyes: what did you say again?
Despite his busy schedule, Jesus never appeared to be in a hurry. In this series we will look at what God’s rhythm is for our lives, how we can live simply and at a slower pace, how we can do that, what Jesus calls us to do and how we can live in the here and now.
And in between we also look at how Paul implemented this in his life, and he really had enough to do.
To anticipate it:
Each of us is different. We have different personalities, different life phases and circumstances, different limits and resilience. This means that the path between rest and action is different for each of us.
So how can it be possible to come to Jesus to experience this rest?
And what can we learn from Jesus for our lifestyle?
Jesus was very active for at least 3 years. Not much is known about his life before that, but he worked in his father’s profession as a carpenter. Afterwards he was besieged by people. Through all of this, he was deeply connected to his father in heaven and it was fundamentally important for him to calm down and listen to his father in heaven.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we can see that he took God into every activity. He was always in conversation with God and time with God was not just an appointment in the day that had to be completed.
Sometimes we separate that in our lives, that’s my work, that’s… and now I have time for Jesus. We should do everything to honor God and take him with us everywhere. God wants to meet us everywhere in our everyday lives and we can learn to live every minute in God’s presence.
Paul urges us: Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
So: be constantly in conversation with God.
Being aware of God’s presence is a habit I need to practice. This doesn’t happen by itself. At first I might need reminders, like little pieces of paper. The Benedictine monks used the hourly chiming of the clock to pause. This is how the Liturgy of the Hours came into being. It’s not about a feeling of God’s presence, but about becoming aware of God’s presence because that changes my lifestyle.
If we remember again the image of the yoke, that God wants to guide us and knows what is good for me, then a second point is whether I am ready to change myself in my everyday life, in my plan, in my thoughts to let God interrupt.
There is not always an interruption from God and we probably need to learn a lot more, with our antennas pointed towards God, to learn to distinguish what is coming from Him and to say no otherwise. But we also see this again and again in the life of Jesus, that he allows God to interrupt him.
An example is the woman at Jacob’s well. An opportunity that Jesus does not miss. Finally the disciples come back, having gone into the city to get something to eat because they were hungry. They think that Jesus must also be totally drained because he hasn’t eaten, but
Jesus says to them: Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John 4:34
When we allow God to interrupt us, it gives us more strength. There is not something else on top, but God also has a very close eye on us.
On the other hand, Jesus also speaks about how important silence and withdrawal are:
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Jesus speaks of a quiet place. It doesn’t have to be a room, for some it’s a walk in nature. But a very conscious time just between Jesus and you, where you turn off all distractions. No cell phone, ideally not near you, no one who just comes into the room. It’s like in a normal relationship: occasional conversations are really important, but they’re not enough on their own. This creates no depth. And it’s also pretty unloving to always just treat the other person in passing.
In all four gospels we read about how Jesus repeatedly withdrew.
Just a few examples:
Mark 1:35 : And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Matthew 14:23 : And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
Luke 5:15 : and he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
Mark 6:32 : And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
What is your place, what is your time when you are alone with Jesus?
By the way, the whole thing has nothing to do with our time. We think quickly: that too. But we notice how much time we waste doing other things. It’s not about our time, it’s about our priorities. We Christians are always quick to say: Jesus comes first. But what is your lifestyle like? Does it reflect your priorities?
I think we need some kind of structure.
For some personality types, this is a bit off-putting. But what I mean by that is, if we don’t consciously build time with Jesus into our daily routine but hope that it will work out at some point, then something will always come up. Not all of us are morning people, but it’s still good to start the day with Jesus, to be aware with a prayer that he is with me, to lay down the day and make myself available to him. Jasmin gets up very early every morning before the children, I’m not much of a morning person but I try to take my time when I go to the office before I start work. Each of us is different, for some the best time is after school, for others in the evening. It’s worth just experimenting with it a bit.
The more hectic and the less we are used to it, the more strength and effort it will take us at the beginning until a certain routine develops, and by that I don’t mean that the relationship with Jesus becomes a routine, but rather that we take time for it him.
So don’t give up too quickly. This also includes: Once we have calmed down externally, then the question arises, what is my inner restlessness? Because we notice this again and again: When I’m outwardly calm, my thoughts start to circle.
The first thing that helps me:
Psalm 46:10 says: Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
I am aware that Jesus is there now and who I am actually talking to. Playing music or listening to a worship song, reading a psalm, a prayer written by others can all help me focus on God.
I often have a piece of paper somewhere on which I write down important things that come to mind that I really wanted to do and shouldn’t forget. If it’s on the list, I can let it go.
I turn my thoughts into prayers. I can bring my worries, dreams, whatever comes up to God. And now it gets exciting, because sometimes there are things that make it rather unpleasant. Things come up that I perhaps didn’t even want to look at but always wanted to push down: disappointments, doubts, sin, impure thoughts. And I have to decide to allow them, to allow God to speak. He doesn’t show me this to choke me up, but so that I can become healed inside, find peace about it and experience his peace. I am convinced that if we always try to push such things away, then at some point in our lives they will find their way in other ways, and usually not to our advantage.
This is all practice.
I notice myself how sometimes it works better and sometimes worse. But the more often I do it, the better it works. And when I calm down, I can just enjoy God’s presence. Ideally, you should take a little more time for this from time to time. Sometimes a whole afternoon, a whole day, a weekend in the monastery or somewhere else.
Between calm and action.
Are we too busy to follow Jesus? He invites us to come to him, to rest with him and to learn from him.
Jesus says: For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
So when we are so busy that we achieve everything, are in contact with everyone, but because of the hectic pace we neglect ourselves and our relationship with them and get damaged in the process. You have the choice: the enemy wants to drive you, you can find peace with Jesus.
Even if it is a little more strenuous at first and will always be fought over because the enemy wants to keep us away from Jesus. This fight is worth taking up. Try it out next week. Just turn off your cell phone for an hour, grab a Bible or go outside and talk to Jesus.
I want to pray
Bible references with kind permission: ERF Bibelserver