V Epiphany

February 4, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

We live in a very busy world.  A world that is always on the move.  A world of 24 hour news cycles.  A world in which we almost feel guilty for taking a vacation, because there is work to be done.  A world in which we have to schedule a “play date” for our children, because they are so busy with all of their school work and extra-curricular activities.

Often people’s lives are so busy that they have little time for God.  “Sunday is the only day that we have together” – is what we hear from the modern family.  Of course, that isn’t even true anymore, because there are sporting tournaments scheduled on Sundays.

A friend of mine who lives in New York City told me of the irony that in a city with millions of people, lives are lived in such a way that people are lonely.  It is hard to believe that surrounded by that many people, you could be lonely.

And somehow we think that this is a new problem.  Yes, it is true that there were days that were not as hectic.  I grew up in a very different family (I am only discovering today).  Sundays we went to church, out for a nice meal, and then decided which family or friend we were going to visit.

As idealized as we may look at the past, human beings have always kept themselves overly occupied.  Just look at the gospel lesson for an example.

Jesus is in the synagogue, and then he goes to the house of Simon (that’s Peter to you and me) and he has to heal Simon’s mother-in-law.  Then the people of the area find that Jesus is there and, as the reading says:

“That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together about the door.   And he healed 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.”

Then later it says, “And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’  And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.’  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”

We can see from this reading that Jesus led a very busy life.  He was well-known for His abilities to teach and to heal, and He was pursued by people constantly. 

Those who may have been following along with the lesson might have noticed that I skipped a sentence.  Let me read it for you – “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”

This is very important for us to read.  As busy as Jesus was, He took the time to go and be quite.  He took the time to be in a place by Himself with His Heavenly Father.  He took the time to pray.

From this we busy people need to remember the balance which Jesus shows us.  It is a balance of work and of rest, a balance of time with others and time on our own, a balance of busyness and quiet, a balance of labor and of prayer.

One of the things that is true about Anglican/Episcopal spirituality is that it is rooted in Benedictinism.  When the first Book of Common Prayer was compiled, Thomas Cranmer included the Daily Prayer Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, which he had created by knitting together elements of the seven prayer offices in the Benedictine Monastery.

His vision was that everyone would pray the offices each day, and that the church bell would be rung as the priest prayed them in the church.  And then, that everyone who come to the church on Sunday for the Eucharist.

As Episcopalians, we have inherited this rhythm of life – a rhythm which includes work and prayer.  One which is balanced with time in the busyness of life and time set aside for quiet prayer with God.   One which very much resembles the rhythm of life lived by Jesus Himself. 

We may fool ourselves into believing that somehow our busy lives are a sign of the times.  I would argue that human beings have always kept themselves busy, and have had to make a conscious effort to set aside time for God. 

I am grateful that we have inherited a tradition which gives us a model by which to live.  A model which includes work and rest and prayer.  A time with others, and a time with God.  Just like Jesus.  Let us all take advantage of this great gift that we have been given – the gift of Anglican spirituality.  AMEN.