“An Important Action while Sitting”                                                 May 25, 2014

Mark 1:28-38                                                                                        Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   A few years ago the Rev. Maynard Pittendreigh got brave and asked the members of his congregation what was their favorite part of the worship service.

A.    One person said it was the Apostles’ Creed because he was able to stand up and declare his faith.

1.     Another person said it was prayer because there were so many things in her heart that she wanted to pray for.

2.     Eventually one person said it was the prelude.

3.     Rev. Pittendreigh looked at the person and asked, “You mean it’s not the sermon?” because this person was his last and best hope for his preaching to be mentioned.

4.     “Oh no, preacher, it’s definitely the prelude.”

5.     When Pittendreigh asked what made the prelude meaningful this person replied that their week was so busy and intense, and that whenever they entered the sanctuary and the prelude began they found that they could sit back, be quiet, and experience the presence of God.

B.     Pittendereigh in his article, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There,” comments that most of us are simply too busy to stop and do nothing for even a few moments each week.

1.     We operate under the assumption that we must be active every minute of every day.

2.     That is actually a sign of confusion in that we confuse busy-ness with being productive or successful.

C.     As Christians we would say that the most productive and successful life ever lived was lived by Jesus.

1.     I mean, when you fulfill the Father’s will and save the world from sin and death and begin the process of the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God then you’ve lived a productive and successful life.

2.     But what did Jesus do from time to time?

3.     He’d go off by himself to pray, and Jesus was a busy person healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching and preaching.

4.     Jesus was no couch potato because he was a man of action, but he would set aside quiet time to do nothing else other than talk with God.

II.                 Bishop Young Jin Cho has noticed the discrepancy between how Jesus lived with how we live and he’s concerned.

A.    Remember that the term we apply to ourselves “Christians” literally means “little Christ.”

1.     We can’t be little Christ’s if we seldom take time to pray and without prayer we are not going to transform the world.

2.     For that reason Bishop Cho has designated today a “Day of Prayer for the Virginia Annual Conference.”

3.     His hope is that we will pray for the renewal of the United Methodist Churches in Virginia and for the Conference itself.

4.     His dream is that each local church will establish at least one new prayer group where the members of that prayer group will meet weekly to pray for one hour for the members of that congregation, its staff and the needs of that church.

5.     His vision is that each member of a United Methodist Church will want to grow in their prayer life by lengthening their daily prayer and devotional time by 5-10 minutes with a goal of spending one hour a day in prayer and devotion with God.

6.     Bishop Cho believes that one hour is possible because while he is an incredibly busy man he spends one hour in the morning in prayer and often a second hour in the afternoon.

7.     Our church has signed a prayer covenant document in support of Bishop Cho and I and hundreds of other clergy have signed a personal prayer covenant with the result being that my prayer life has lengthened.

8.     Of course, there are many more laity than clergy and the truth is that you laity are more important than us clergy so Bishop Cho has asked for each local church to provide an opportunity for laity to join the prayer covenant.

9.     You’ll see as an insert a prayer covenant form that you can fill out and put in the collection plate or drop by the office.

10.             We’ll keep a list in the office of those who sign up and send your name on to the Conference to indicate that you will be more methodical in your prayer life and I more than strongly suspicion that at Annual Conference which is June 20-22 in Hampton that Bishop Cho will announce the latest number of churches, clergy and laity who are actively participating in this prayer covenant.

11.             If you sign up don’t do it to please Bishop Cho, but do it for the purpose of becoming more like Jesus who prayed often and to grow closer to God.

B.     If you will do that then I think you will come to a new identity for your life.

1.     At present you and I live in a society where we think being busy will make us feel worthwhile.

2.     I know I do because I was raised that way.

3.     There are times when I’m doing nothing that I feel so guilty, like I’m being lazy and that I’m wasting time.

4.     Rev. Pittendreigh comments on how two generations ago it was the washing machine that was going to redeem the life of the family.

5.     Prior to the automatic washing machine it would take an entire day to do a family’s laundry.

6.     People would refer to a specific day in the week as “Wash Day.”

7.     Then technology offered the automatic washing machine and later the dryer so that you could throw the clothes in the machines and then go do something else.’

8.     So, did people use that time to relax?

9.     No, they filled their time with other things.

10.             Recently computers were supposed to save us time, but how much time each day do you and I spend in front of a computer?

11.             Do you feel rested because of the time you are saving thanks to your computer?

C.     Rev. Pittendreigh notes that we act like something bad might happen if we would be still for just one moment.

1.     He observes that in the Gospels that Jesus is very busy and that Mark’s Gospel may be closest to the 21st Century because Mark gives the impression that everyone is in a hurry.

2.     Mark’s favorite phrase is “immediately” which he uses over 50 times.

3.     Remember when Jesus was baptized, “And immediately the Holy Spirit led him into the desert.”

4.     Jesus calls Andrew and Simon, two fishermen, to follow him, “And immediately they left their nets.”

5.     Jesus heals people and casts out demons and “immediately and quickly the news spread about Jesus.”

6.     And you know I’m going to mention the verse where after Jesus has done so much in a short amount of time we read, “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

7.     If Jesus needed to recharge his spiritual batteries, what do you think that means for you?

III.              Let me suggest a few lessons for all of us.

A.    First, we need to rest from our work, and find a solitary place of quiet.

1.     A pastor was confronted by an angry church member who complained that he had called the pastor on Saturday and couldn’t reach him.

2.     The preacher explained that that was his day off.

3.     “What? A day off? The devil never takes a day off!” exclaimed the member with a holier-than-thou indignation.

4.     “That’s right,’ said the clergyman, “and if I didn’t take any time out, I would be just like him!” (Pittendreigh,” Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There,” Date?)

B.     Another illustration of what I am getting at is from Lettie Cowman’s book, Springs in the Valley (pp. 196-197), where she describes an incident that occurred centuries ago in colonial Africa.

1.     A traveler was making a long trek and hired natives to carry the load.

2.     The traveler planned for a quick journey but on the second morning after the speed of light pace, the natives sat down and rested.

3.     They absolutely refused to move.

4.     The reason was that they were waiting for their souls to catch up.

5.     Talk about spiritual insight.

6.     Maybe you and I experience times of emptiness because we have not rested, we have not prayed, and we have become disconnected from our souls and from God.

C.      A second thing is that when we do get to a solitary place we need to pray.

1.     There is a science fiction writer named Robert Sawyer and in one of his books people on earth encounter alien life from other planets.

2.     One of the scientists develops a relationship and learns that these aliens not only believe in God, but spend eight hours a day in prayer. ((Take that Bishop Cho).

3.     The scientist asks the alien how one can spend eight hours asking God for things and the alien replies, “What does prayer have to do with asking for things?” (Pittendreigh, date?)

4.     Apparently aliens understand the vitality that comes from just being present with God through prayer and listening for His will.

D.    The third and final thing to lift up concerns how we end our prayers.

1.     Now, I’ve never been in a movie, but we all know that the actors take their places, the cameras get into position and the Director yells, “Action!”

2.     What would happen if you and I were to come to understand the word “Amen” not to mean “good-bye” or “see you later but right now I’ve got to go”?

3.     What if we came closer to what Amen literally means which is “So be it” and understood the word Amen to mean “action.”

4.     Amen is not a nicety which allows us to politely end our conversation with God and move away from His presence in order to do other things, but instead is a way of saying, “God, we’ve talked about a number of things and I believe I’ve heard what you want me to do so let’s go from here together to take action.”

E.     So it is good to see you sitting there and since you are sitting let us take action by praying so let us each silently pray to God and may our Amen today truly mean that we are ready to leave this place with God and take action. Let us pray.