|Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 26, 2012||First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15|
|Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012||February 22, 2012||Ash Wednesday||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B||February 19, 2012||Last Sunday after Epiphany||2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 12, 2012||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 5, 2012||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 29, 2012||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 22, 2012||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 15, 2012||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51|
|First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 8, 2012||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:4-11|
|Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012||January 6, 2012||Epiphany||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011||December 25, 2011||Christmas Day, 2012||Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011||December 24, 2011||The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent||December 11, 2011||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Canticle 15; John 1:6-8, 19-28|
|Second Sunday in Advent||December 4, 2011||Second Sunday in Advent, Year B||Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8|
|First Sunday in Advent||November 27, 2011||First Sunday in Advent, Year B||Genesis 28:10-17; Isaiah 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37|
19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 25
Sermon Date:October 23, 2011
Scripture: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 25, Year A
If you were at church last week, then you will remember that we talked about stewardship of money—the idea that our calling as Christians is to use the money that God has given us to help make God’s kingdom more visible on earth, to make God’s love more tangible to those around us.
Today I’m going to talk about stewardship of time, which like the stewardship of money can help make God’s love more tangible—and how we spend our time can also be a gift offered back to God in thanksgiving for all that God has done for us.
And the way that we spend our time directly relates to how we carry out the two great commandments by loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
You all are some of the busiest people I know when I think of people who give time and energy to serve God in the world and to love your neighbors as yourselves. Thank you for all that you do!
But sometimes, in our zeal to serve God with our time, we get overwhelmed. The following experience is an example of what I mean.
When I was at Shrine Mont this past week for the Diocesan clergy retreat, Tuesday afternoon was free time. I met with my spiritual director for an hour, and then decided that I had enough time to hike up North Mountain before supper time. I really felt like taking a nap, or reading a book, but how often do I get to be at Shrine Mont?
So with only three hours at my disposal, I headed up North Mountain. The weather was perfect, the temperature was just right, and air was full of the color of leaves changing. And beneath my feet were more leaves than I had ever seen on the trail before—in fact, sometimes I couldn’t see the trail at all because of the leaf cover.
In fact, the farther along the trail I went, the more focused I became on the path ahead of me, keeping my eyes glued to the trail, because beneath the leaves were rocks that shifted under my feet without warning. I literally had to watch every step.
The hands on my watch were moving much more quickly than I was, and I began to get tired, but because I only had three hours for the whole hike, I didn’t want to take a break.
So I kept my eyes glued to the trail, and kept on going, with only a brief stop now and then for some water.
Finally I made it to the top, and after spending some time at the summit, with its spectacular view across two valleys, I started back down the mountain.
I have to say that the trip down the mountain was pretty stressful. I was walking against a deadline, and the sun was getting lower in the sky. I didn’t dare take my eyes off the trail for fear of slipping and falling.
And so the hike went, and as I forced myself to keep going, I couldn’t help but think that this journey up and down the mountain was a great metaphor for the stewardship of time and what can so easily happen to those of us who stay so busy.
Have you ever had times in your life when you enthusiastically get started on something—a new job, a marriage, parenthood, some big project—and you go along for a while and then realize that you are really tired, but that you have to keep going, and you have to watch every step for fear of falling, or failing? Coming down North Mountain made me think about the times in my life I’ve felt that way—alone, exhausted, and with no choice but to continue.
We’ve probably all experienced similar feelings around what I’m going to call “church work.” Maybe you’ve taken something on at church with a lot of excitement, and as time passes, you grow weary, and maybe you are the only one doing that particular thing, or carrying the biggest piece of it, and you can’t just quit. Others are depending on you.
How many days of our lives do we spend focusing on the trail, carrying a load, getting good things done, and yet wearing ourselves out—and all we can do is to wish for the end of the day and miss God’ s presence all around us?
Periodically, during the journey down that trail on Tuesday, I just had to stop, breathe the cool air in and out, drink some water, and look up. I was missing all of the beauty around me because I had to focus so specifically on the trail. When I stopped and looked around, I saw a red headed wood pecker, trees blazing red and gold, blue sky still bright far above me, while on the side of the mountain, a blue gray dusk was just barely beginning. Beauty and silence all around me.
After these breaks, I felt refreshed enough to continue, less exhausted and less frustrated by the situation I had chosen for myself. I gathered up enough strength to continue.
In our journeys through this life, true stewardship of time begins with stopping and being intentional about looking for God around us, seeking God’s guidance and strength.
Stewardship of time must be undergirded with time for prayer.
Without prayer, even good works can turn into busy, frustrating work.
For the past several weeks, the people in book group have been reading a book called The Introduction to the Devout Life, by St Francis de Sales, a Catholic bishop who lived around the time of the Reformation.
St Francis believed that everyone is capable of what the book calls a devout life. And so he spends a lot of time in the book talking about how to pray—to take those pauses where we stop and get intentional about seeking God’s guidance and strength.
You have a book mark in your bulletin. On the front are the guidelines St Francis gives us for praying in the morning before we even get out of bed, and on the back he gives us a specific way to pray in the evening. I like his instructions, because they are easy to follow and very down to earth.
Make prayer your general preparation for all the activities of the day.
Upon waking, worship God “most profoundly.” Give thanks for waking up to live another day.
Ask God’s pardon for any sins that you may have committed since you last prayed.
“Consider that the present day is given you in order that you may gain the future day of eternity.” Plan to live this day well.
Look through your day ahead and consider the opportunities you will have to serve God. What temptations will you face, and how will you handle them? Plan ahead so that you may offer your best to God throughout the day in the way that you relate to others.
Last of all, “humble yourself in the presence of God, “ asking for God’s help in carrying out your intentions to do good.
“And as if you held your heart in your hands, offer it, together with all your good designs, to God, asking for protection and strength, so that you can proceed “prosperously in God’s service.”
Give thanks to God for having preserved you during the day.
Examine how you behaved yourself throughout the day. Consider where you have been, with whom, and in what business you have been employed.
If you have done good, thank God for the good you have done.
If you have done evil, ask pardon, firmly resolving to avoid that evil in the future.
Pray for protection for your soul and your body, for the Church, for your family and for your friends.
Ask the communion of saints to watch over you and to pray for you.
Take your rest. )
I hope that you will take these bookmarks home and use them, morning and night, and try these simple prayers. I believe that if you undergird your work with these simple ways of praying on a consistent basis that you will find yourselves filling up with God’s guidance and strength, able to praise God for what might otherwise burdensome.
Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”—in other words with our whole selves, in a balanced way; by feeling or having a sense of God’s presence, learning more about God through scripture, but most of all, by taking God into our hearts, because that is where God longs to be.
When we set time aside for prayer, we find that God really does take up residence in our hearts.
And when God dwells in our hearts, we are most truly able to love our neighbors as ourselves, serving them, and enjoying their company. It is when we know God as the Lord of our hearts that we are able to keep the commandments that God laid out for us and to become truly holy people in the ways that we serve one another by keeping God’s commandments and treating one another with dignity and respect.
St Augustine, one of our greatest Christian theologians, writing just three hundred years after Jesus was with us, summed up the two great commandments in this way.
Augustine says that part of love is “enjoying fellowship with the beloved.” Loving God is then the highest happiness, and it can be achieved only in community—as Paul said today in his letter to the Thessalonians, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”
“Our greatest reward,” Augustine said, “is that we may enjoy God perfectly and that all of us who enjoy God perfectly may enjoy one another in Him.”
Making time for God, enjoying God, and enjoying and serving one another–when God has given us the grace to do these things, we will know what it means to spend our time perfectly for our Lord.