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Here we go…. Again!
I would imagine if I am the sitting there in the congregation, I won’t be saying this with enthusiasm, but almost groaning – here we go… again.
It is the season of Lent… again.
We are talking about growing… again.
We are talking about waiting… again.
We talked about waiting during the season of Advent – as we waited for Christmas, as we waited to celebrate the coming of Christ.
<M> What comes to mind when you hear the word “waiting”?
In our consumerist culture today, waiting is a negative thing. Waiting is considered a waste of time. We want the waiting to be as short as possible. Even getting from one point to another, we want to take the shortest possible route.
We are told that waiting is not productive. We have to be constantly on the move, doing something, be productive, make a difference. Our worth is based on what we can do.
But that’s how the world sees things. That’s not how God sees us. We are worthy, we are beloved – unconditionally.
Do you believe that you are beloved? Do you believe you are loved unconditionally?
If you do, if you have faith that that God loves us unconditionally, then embracing this truth means that we can let go of the need to constantly be in motion, constantly doing, constantly be busy. Because that is restlessness. That is the opposite of being still.
I chose the worship song “Restless” because it resonates so much with what I want to say today. “I am restless till I rest in you.” This is quote from Saint Augustine of Hippo –
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Restlessness is that desire to be filled and fulfilled.
When we lament here we go again, when we complain “are we there yet?” we are restless.
<M>What is the opposite of restlessness?
It is only when we slow down and allow ourselves to observe and reflect that we can see these changes. But are we willing to slow down? Are we willing to reflect? Are we willing to be still?
Pauline asked us in her sermon last week – “will you sow intention to return to God with your whole heart and live like it?”
Do you realise that slowing down, reflecting, waiting, being still are ways of sowing our intention to return to God with our whole hearts and live like it?
I often anchor myself in the verse I use as a prayer “Be still and know I am God.”
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; God lifts God’s voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations God has brought on the earth.
God makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
God breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
God burns the shields with fire.
God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Be still and know I am God. Be still when we are in trouble. Be still when the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Be still in times of war.
Being still – as simple as it sounds – is not easy. Because being still requires us to give up control and trust God.
Being still is about waiting. Waiting for God, and waiting on God.
I have always wondered about what Jesus said to Martha in the Gospel according to Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I have always wondered about this passage because without someone doing the actual work, all the preparations – then nothing will be done! Just imagine all of you sitting here listening, and nobody manning the AV, nobody setting up the sound, the cameras, the lights, nobody setting up the youtube broadcast, nobody at the door doing the safe-entry checks – we don’t be having church right now!
I have come to realise that’s not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is NOT saying that you don’t have to make preparations. Jesus was specifically addressing Martha here – “Martha, Martha – you are worried and upset about many things.” Martha here is restless.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
What is this one thing?
Mary is resting in God. Mary is being present.
Martha is distracted by all the preparations needed.
But why is Martha distracted?
Could it be, that Martha, like so many of us today, is not able to be still, because being still means we have to confront the things we don’t want to deal with? Could it be that busying herself with all the preparation work is to distract herself? Could it be that Martha gets uncomfortable when she is not busy, and she thinks her worthiness is based on her performance, her work? Could it be that she has yet to take that very first step to allow herself to be still, to be present, to allow herself to be loved, and embrace her own belovedness?
Are you Martha?
I have been Martha. Some people many describe me as “cannot sit still.” I had to be constantly doing something so that I am distracted – I am unwilling and unable to deal with stillness.
Sometimes in our stillness, we hear the negative voices, “we are not good enough,” “we are a fraud.” Maybe that’s why we want to avoid stillness. Maybe there are parts of ourselves we do not like – and being still means facing that. But it is also in this stillness that God speaks to us. When we busy ourselves, distract ourselves, and keep being Martha, then we will not hear what God is saying to us, what God is prompting us, the areas we need to grow.
<M> Who are you more like – Mary or Martha?
God is inviting us to return with our whole hearts. God is waiting for us. And it requires us to wait and be still.
When we wait for the bus to come, when we wait for our turn, we don’t wait for nothing. We wait for something. We wait in expectation and hope. Waiting is hopeful. If the last bus has gone, we don’t wait at the bus stop – unless you want to wait for the first bus in the morning.
On our faith journey, we wait in hope, we wait in faith. We wait having faith that we are God’s beloved, and trusting that God is with us. We wait in hope that God will be faithful.
We need to trust that God has already planted a seed within us – and this waiting is allowing the seed to germinate and sprout and grow.
But this waiting is also open ended. Unlike waiting for the bus – we may not know where God is leading us to. I would not have thought back in 2006 that I would be here as the pastor of FCC.
<m> Think back maybe 5 years ago. 10 years ago. Can your younger self imagine where you would be today?
If your younger self cannot imagine where you would be today, do you think that God may lead you somewhere you cannot imagine 5, 10 years down the road?
The future is open ended. I often hear people say God has a plan. Yes there is a plan, but God isn’t a micromanager who has everything mapped out. That is far too limiting.
From the song Seasons we heard during worship – God could have saved us in a second – but instead God sent a child.
God is the God of infinite possibilities.
God’s will draws us towards a certain direction – but we are invited, but not forced. We can align ourselves with God’s will. Or we can resist. It is like gravity – we are pulled towards the earth – but there are also other forces at play – the wind can blow us off. And we can defy gravity – flying with the aid of technology.
Just like wars. It is NOT God’s will for war.
Indeed Isaiah 2:4 says “they shall beat swords to ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not life up sword against nation; neither shall they learn of war anymore.” Jesus is the prince of peace –
And yet here we are – the wars have not ceased.
The thing is – human beings have free will – and our selfishness, our ego, our desire to be God, to be in control – moves us away from God’s will. All these wars stem from our ego, our greed, our pride, our selfishness – our inability to love one another like God loves us.
God’s will for humanity is peace.
And it requires ALL of us to be aligned with God’s will, all of humanity to be drawn into the same direction – just like gravity.
So we let go, and allow God to mould us and shape us, and align us to God’s will. So this waiting is also surrender.
But how do we surrender?
We have been told often trying the same thing again and again and expecting the same outcome is insanity.
But isn’t doing the same thing again and again practice?
Those of you who are musicians – to learn a new music piece, you practice. Again and again and again. And you practice not to the point where you can play the piece
An amateur does something until they get it right. A professional does something until they cannot get it wrong.
Being still requires practice – it requires us learning to be comfortable with ourselves, our own thoughts, our own feelings.
Being still – means that what is going on inside can catch up with us. It may be overwhelming, it may be frightening, it may be painful – but that’s the same way God catches up with us – that we give God an opportunity to speak to us, to prompt us, to do something with us.
<M> What is required for us to grow?
Are you willing?
If you are willing – then I would like to invite you to translate your willingness, your intention – into action.
We are kicking off our Lent prayer series this Wednesday – it would be from 8-9.30pm on zoom. Fcc.la/fccprays
Perhaps you cannot make it for these sessions – perhaps 1.5 hours may be too much. I would like to share with you something simpler. Something you can just do for 2 minutes. But I would like you to do it for 2 minutes in the morning, and 2 minutes before bed.
I have previously shared “Be Still And Know I am God.” This time I want a meditative prayer based on a verse from the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy will be done.” 3 deep breaths. “Thy will be done.” 3 deep breaths. “Thy will be done.” 3 deep breaths. Then you sit in silence focusing on your breathing – in and out, in and out until the 2 minutes is up. If you get distracted, thoughts start popping up (esp what you need to do next etc) just go back to “Thy will be done” 3 deep breaths.
Simone Weil, a Jewish writer, said, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.”