Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 24, 2014
When my father first started working in the early 1970s, he got a job at a small oil company in southern California. He showed up every day at nine. Worked all day. And then he left at five. Sure, work had its stress but there was something different about work in the 1970s, something simpler. It wasn’t the two martini lunch. It wasn’t the wool suit he wore everyday, even during the sunny summers in Los Angeles. By the time my father left the workforce and I entered it, something had changed. What changed was not email or anything like that. When I entered the workforce, I became part of a new culture; the culture of busy.
You’ve heard it. I know you have. Because you’ve said it to me. “Hey man, how have you been doing?” “Oh I’m good, just busy. Busy busy busy.” I’ve heard you talk about it, I’ve heard that you wake up early to work, that you work your fingers to the bone at the office. And then when you come home, you pop open your laptop to keep on working. Half of Americans work on days off, when they are sick, and when they are on vacation. Guilty as charged. So what actually happens, is that we don’t take vacations. We’re consumed by busy busy busy busy.
Something evil is going on here. It’s not that we don’t like working. Because I know many of you enjoy your work, I do too. And you’re good at it. No, what’s going on here is that we are using work as an excuse to hide from our realities. The culture of busy is a cop-out, a way to avoid asking yourself tough questions. Work can easily become a drug, a way to numb your pain. When you’re hooked on your busy-ness and work, you don’t have to ask yourself, “am I happy?” When you’re working all the time, you can’t stop and say, “Is this what my family wants?” “Is this what I really want in life?” “is this the kind of life that God wants?”
And it’s not just in the workforce, it’s here in the church. Boy, we’re just busy. Doing a lot stuff. A lot of ministry. We just have to keep on being busy and coming up with new stuff. You’ve seen that bumper sticker – “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” You have even said this to me. “Well, I didn’t want to bother you Fr. Jimmy because I just know you’re so busy.” So as we are getting ready to go back to school, we just need to take a collective time-out. And re-assess what’s going on.
Listen to what St. Paul says – “Do not be conformed to this world.” You know what that means, right? That means quit buying into the culture. Quit doing what everybody else is doing, just so that you can keep up. Because you know what, the guy in the cubicle next to you is just as exhausted as you are. Do not be conformed to this world. When you are on vacation, be on vacation. Even Jesus took vacations. And you know what – in the grand scheme of things you’re not actually that important. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re not. None of us are. Don’t blame me, I didn’t say it, Saint Paul did. He says, “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.”
“Do not be conformed to this world,” do not give into the culture of busy, “but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Because I do not believe that working seventy, eighty, or ninety hours a week – working yourself crazy – is good, or acceptable, or anywhere near perfect. Your families want you more than that. Your God wants you more than that. It’s time that we are transformed.
And we can start that transformation process right here at Holy Comforter. We are going to model transformative life. We will stop doing things just for the sake of doing of things. How about our bumper sticker is – “Jesus is coming. Be happy.” If you are leading a ministry and it’s become more of a chore than a labor of love, let it go. It is far better, far holier, to be happy and cheerful than bitter and stressed. So be transformed. I sincerely believe that God desires us to be holy, not to be busy. And you know what? That might just be the perfect opportunity for somebody else to step up into leadership. Sure, they may not do it the same way that you do it, but that’s okay. As St. Paul says, we all have different gifts, but each one of us does indeed have something. Maybe instead of you just doing the same thing over and over again, you ask someone to join you. Someone who has gifts of prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, generosity, diligence, cheerfulness.
Now, before you think I’m letting you off the hook. I do not expect you to do everything, I do expect you to do something. Not to be busy for the sake of busy, but to do something that glorifies the Lord Jesus. If you have gifts of working with children, then I expect you to work with our children. If you have gifts of compassion, then I expect you to work on outreach efforts. If you can sing, I expect you to sing in the choir. If you have gifts of prayer, then I expect you to pray. And I do expect all of you to be financially committed to this church. There’s something all of you can do. Or as St. Paul says, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.”
See, the Church is not a consumer venture. You cannot come to church expecting me or the youth ministry or the music to fill you up. Instead, you must come to church ready to empty yourself, ready to serve, ready to make sacrifices so that there is room in your heart to be filled up with the Holy Spirit.
If you don’t know what your gifts are, if you are looking for a way to empty your heart, then come talk to me or Deacon Bob. That’s what we are here for. And please, please, don’t ever assume that we’re too busy for you. Call the church office. Send us one of those dreaded emails. You can even send us a carrier pigeon if you want to talk about your relationship with Jesus and how you can serve the church. Call us when you’re in the hospital, when you’re sick and you want communion.
But above all else, be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Because that is what this is all about. See, what has happened in Christ is that God has launched his mission to make all things new. To re-create the world. A lot of us think that Jesus rose from the dead so that we could live forever. That’s only half the point. The resurrection is the sign from God that God intends to conquer the sin and death in our lives. And the culture of busy is a sin – because it draws us from God – and is death – because I’ve seen the culture of busy literally kill people. Saint Paul tells us that God is out to transform you. God is here to rescue you, to liberate you from the chains you’ve put yourself in. Do not be conformed to this world. If you are in a ministry or a job or a life that is killing you, then I invite you to the process of transformation.
Finally, I must say, that you are worth it. You are worth living a wholesome, good, acceptable, and perfect life. You cannot earn your worth. Your sales numbers, your productivity goals, your career achievements are not what give you worth. A holy life is not one in which all of your emails are answered within ten minutes, or a life in which you keep moving to bigger house. Your worth is a direct gift from God and God alone. Therefore, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.”