How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. I heard those words on a podcast as I drove to Elmsdale this past week. They were written by Annie Dillard, an American writer and poet, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Those words resonated with me strongly. Those words caused me to ponder if I spend my days on what is most important… or do I spend them on what seems most pressing. Sometimes those are one and the same thing, but sometimes they are not.
For those of us, at least part of our days, are necessarily governed by those expectations. But most of us have leisure time… do we fritter it away… scrolling through Facebook? Binge watching Netflix? I have recently become captivated by Grace and Frankie. Mindlessly shopping? In person or on-line? Are we spending our days on what matters most to us? That the personal question.
And then we can ask the same question of us as a faith community? How do we spend our days? Are we spending our time, energy and financial resources on what we say is the most important? Just about a year, I presented the Listening Circles Report to the pastoral charge.
Here at Riverview, this is what we said was important:
1. Focused on Faith
2. Welcoming, accepting and inclusive
3. Caring for one another.
4. Connected to the community.
I am wondering how you think we are doing with those things? Are we investing in those? Or are we spending our time and energy working at turkey suppers? Or focused on the building? Now… I can already hear with are thinking… 😉 The building needed repairs, yes, true, and without people like John and Bill and Alan to do that kind of work and maintenance, we would be in trouble. Or are you thinking, we need to have fund raisers in order to raise money. Again true… but is that are primary purpose?
Last Saturday, many of you worked very hard at the Turkey Supper… and there were a number who didn’t come to church the next morning, probably because you were exhausted. My concern is that when you work so hard on a fundraiser to the detriment of hearing the word proclaimed.
Nobody joins a faith community in order to work at a turkey supper…. People enter into a community of faith for a variety of reasons… but I have never heard anyone express that as their primary motivation and desire. They may be necessary… and they can help build connections, but they are NOT our primary purpose.
Paul, in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, encourages them and us to live a life that is worthy of God. Not to be held captive by the weights of the world in which they live, but to live with a higher purpose, one in which all are freed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we remember all those who died in service to our country, I think they must have gone into war with strong belief in a great purpose… they were saving the world. Otherwise nobody would wade through mud and water to gain a few meters of ground…
But they had clarity of purpose and were willing to sacrifice and do anything to achieve that purpose. Do we have that clarity of our purpose?
What are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to do to achieve what you said you wanted to be? We have so much to be thankful for and yet so often we focus on what we don’t have. We get caught in a swirl of negativity and spiral down.
None of us is perfect… not you… not me… And not our church or the world around us… Much like life in Biblical times… wars… disease… loneliness and pain… But as people of faith, we know that healing and wholeness and community is within our grasp… It is in our grasp when we refuse to let negativity and gloom tailor the way in which we live.
Listen to these comments which David Stevens, Leader of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland, made at the Service of Dedication a couple of years ago. Here is part of what he said: “There is a temptation or a tendency to look with morbid fascination of what has gone wrong, or what is going wrong. It’s part of human life. And we in Corrymeela, which is a group committed to reconciliation and peace, are no exception in this. There is the pleasant schadenfreude, which is a wonderful German word which means enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others. There is a certain shadenfreude in watching things go wrong and there is the destructive tendency to encourage them to go wrong. Our personal negativity has a wish for general negativity.”
And Thom Shuman writes this: In other words, if I am pessimistic (and part of a group), rather than letting the group lift my spirits or help change my attitude, I want the rest of the group to be pessimistic. It’s all too true – group dynamics are often affected more by the negativity of a small percentage of people than all the positive outlooks of the majority.So, what can a person, a group, a church do?
Not surprisingly, David Stevens turns to Scripture. “When Peter tries to counteract human weakness with words of hope, he did not encourage people to say what was wrong with the world, the church, or society. He did not ask people to draw up a list of problems or negatives. Instead he asks them simply to give an account of the hope that is in them: ” . . . explain the hope you have in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
In other words, take a look around and see how much we have to be thankful for!
We have SO much more than we did just a generation or two ago, but all too often we focus on what we don’t have. We have so many assets! I mean both individually and as a community of faith.
Those brave men and women who marched off to war and worked as nurses and decoders and paratroopers would be astounded at the wealth we have. Their legacy was freedom and abundant life for the rest of us, at least for most of us in Canada.
Can we start seeing our world with new eyes? Can we start living with hope instead of despair? Can we start living with gratitude like we proclaimed earlier in the psalm?
O give thanks, for God is gracious;
God’s steadfast love endures for ever.
I will leave you with these words from the Only Love Prevails World Peace Experiment:
You can hear the word
Read the word
Believe the word.
But if you don’t live the word
Then all else is in vain
And the word is love
Hear only love
Read only love
Believe only love
Live only love.
Only love prevails.
Thanks be go God for the challenge and the opportunity of living in love. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 2: 2-9