This past Sunday we heard from the prophet Amos. Amos is a short book with a big punch. It is a punch to the stomach. Amos is upset over how the rich are treating the
poor. While studying for my sermon, what struck me was how the rich were tired of the practices of the faith. The routines of the faith got in the way of them making more and more money. The faith was getting in the way. I certainly can see this happening. It occurred to me late Sunday that the routines are what have held me together during difficult situations and as I age, these regular practices are what I enjoy even more because they keep me focused, even more importantly, they are a constant reminder of God’s presence in my life.
When I was younger, I too was sometimes frustrated and fickle about disciplines of the faith like reading scripture daily, worshipping weekly, being mindful of God regularly, and giving freely. I was anxious and scattered brained. I got done what needed to be done, but it was like watching a rat in a maze running hither and yonder trying to find my way out of the puzzle.
Our good friend and fellow member and pastor par excellence, Dale Sillik once attended a seminar that I helped lead. I was speaking when I took off on one of my tangents down a black hole when I looked out into the audience and heard him say, “Focus, Bob, Focus.” Now, that may not have been my conversion date to a more stable thinking, but it was certainly a memory that reminds me to come back into focus when I see myself wandering off down some strange path.
The truth be told, I have longed for structure for many years. I have all sorts of books that address the disciplines of the faith. I have made many attempts at bringing order to my madness. I usually crashed and burned quickly. But I never gave up reading and I never gave up trying. I wanted to have what I did not seem to be able to accomplish.
Then, it started to take shape. It started as a small thing then slowly grew. These changes that I talk about aren’t noticeable to the passer by. They are internal, and they may be described as an inner peace that effects my outward behavior. I am not paddling underneath as wildly as I used to do.
So what happened? Mama died. The kids grew up and are approaching more closely their launch date. My wife, Melanie, retired. There aren’t as many plates to keep spinning. I am caring for myself. The last doctor’s report suggested that I should do a better job. So I have. I eat better and exercise a little more. I pray more relaxed and regularly. I love Sunday morning even more. It is an opportunity to take the holy sacrament of communion and know and experience God’s presence. I live in that promise. I am not chasing tomorrow but learning to living in today.
I’m not sure if this should be chalked up to the aging process or a settling of an over active brain. I do love this new place. It allows me to be less anxious in my work and home life and even be at peace in my own personal space.
Routines are nice. Disciplines of the faith are awesome. I have had a long journey getting to this point. I have longed for this time for a long time; and I can’t say for sure if it will last until death. For now I will just take it as a gift. Tomorrow could bring something different.
Amos was right to be disturbed by how he observed people living. He saw a people chasing after something that didn’t hold the answers to a quality life. They might have acquired more but they were losing a far greater gift. That was gift was given by God. It was a gift of life and living and the way to appreciate it is to make it part of your everyday life. The world tempts us with more and more when the truth is in Christ we are the richest people upon the earth.
I know that many of you are young parents chasing deadlines and commitments. I understand fully that they are not optional choices. But, if you can, and as you are able, breathe in the fresh air of life given by God and just sit there in his presence. Don’t add more to your busy schedule. Imagine downtime. Do nothing. Stare into the heavens. Hold your spouse’s hand. Kiss the kids. Laugh your belly full. Be at peace, feeling God peace and knowing his promises, if only for an afternoon.
In His Service, Pastor Bob