Do you suffer from the Hurry Sickness?

1. Do you try to speed up activities? Impatience at traffic lights, fastest queue in supermarket, checking on other’s progress relative to yours in the queue?

2. Multi tasking, in a bad way?  Try to watch TV, eat, check mobile phone for messages and converse with family members all at the same time?

3. Cluttered up spaces? Diaries so detailed it’s hard to move without them, buy books/mags but not get to read them and then feel guilty that you’ve not read them? Not following through on commitments? Piles of things in your living spaces that you need to get around to sorting out?

4. Superficiality? Have you traded information/data/factoids for wisdom, looking for the brief resume of complicated things on internet, ie working out your thoughts on Brexit? Abraham Lincoln’s biographer and partner in his law firm said Lincoln read less and thought more than any man in his sphere in America. Lincoln had very few books as a child, the Bible, Aesop’s fables among them, but he knew very deeply the message of each.

5. Difficulty with relationships? Hurrying makes relationships hard, because we need to spend time with each other to understand  the other in depth – not just what are likes and dislikes, but what’s led them to those decisions? – about relationships, views on childcare, how the house is organised.

6. “Sunset fatigue”? At the end of the day, having no energy left to spend on people who are supposed to matter most to you, your spouse, your children.  Rushing things (like bath time) when there’s no need, tension causing silly arguments, loss of gratitude and wonder (taking time to look up, or at, and say “Wow!”), indulge in distractions like blah TV, eating or drinking too much, mindless computer games.

It is important that we intentionally spend time with Jesus.  Why?  Because that’s what he modelled for us in his life, and with the disciples. He began his own ministry with time alone in the desert, then we read the day often started and finished with time in a solitary place, on his own, or only with the disciples.  Jesus is intentional about getting his time with God, this, but it’s not a hurried activity.

All these people, and the little dog!, are going somewhere with a purpose, some on a marathon, some look like it’s a group DIY project, who knows where the dog is going, but he’s definitely got a goal in mind!

We are used to thinking of people living in religious communities having prayer time as part of their schedule.

And of course, Jesus withdrew from the busy-ness of daily life to pray, and both morning and night are times mentioned.

For us, again we’re used to those in religious community having night prayers.  If we are on our own, we can spend as much time as we like in prayer.   With a family around, it can be harder, but to pray as a family, simply saying something like “God bless Mummy and Daddy and my sister/brother” or “Be with Daddy and Mummy at work today, me at nursery” sets the pattern.  It’s intending to do it, setting aside the time, and actually doing it that counts.

Prayer can be the head bowed, hands clasped, eyes closed kind of prayer, or it can be a reponse of awe at God’s presence, or goodness.  Or it can be dancing or moving with the excitement of knowing Jesus’ love and works in our lives – morning or night!

And of course, prayer can take place anywhere, anytime we intend it, like this man in the middle of a busy marketplace.  Who’s to say the person sitting next to us on the train or the bus, with earphones in and seeming to doze isn’t actually praying for their fellow passengers … or maybe we could be that person!

Did I recognise anything of myself in the quiz?

In our quiz, we looked at things that get in the way of good relationships and an ordered life, both our relationships with each other and those in our circle of friends and contacts, but the same things apply in our relationship with God as well.

I’m sure you remember the Mary and Martha story (Luke 10:30-41).  It’s always been a puzzlement to me, because I’m by nature a Martha, and I couldn’t see why she should stop, because there were things to be done when there were guests around.  I didn’t get it until I had to prepare for this sermon (God has a great sense of humour making me preach this topic!)  In both pictures, we see only three people, Jesus, Mary and Martha.  But I’m not sure it was quite like that because wherever Jesus went, crowds heard he was there and followed.  And looking a classical paintings of the scene, not only are there more people but there’s at least one table laden with food of all kinds, all of which would have needed preparation.  So here we have Mary listening to Jesus, and Martha busy, busy, busy.  When Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the right way, Martha looks so cross, and I’m pretty sure I would have been too! 

But Jesus was right, Mary had chosen the right way because Jesus might not be that way again for a while, and so this was the time, in this situation, for Martha to down tools and listen to Jesus.  She could carry on working after he’d left.  Do you remember the 1960s song by The Byrds, “Turn, turn, turn”, which was a musical setting of words from the book of Ecclesiastes:

There is a time
for everything,
and a season
for every activity
under the heavens…

When our daughter got married, the wedding was held here, but she was abroad, so it fell to Frank and I to become wedding arrangers.  The Martha that lives in me loved every minute of it!  But come the day of the wedding, when the hairdresser had left, I realised that I had to leave all the planning behind, and trust the professionalism of all the people involved, so that I could be the mother of the bride.  That was my most important job that day.  But it required me to set aside all the Martha urges and focus on my daughter, our family and guests.

When you organise a party at your house, you sort out the food and the drinks, and the guest list, and the chairs and all that.  But when the guests arrive, you need to set aside all the arrangements (well, mostly) and enjoy time with your guests.  Great Aunt Margaret may not get out so much these days, and you know how much it means to her for you to have a chat with her.  Similarly, your best friend from the other end of the country may have come, and you wouldn’t want him or her to leave without having spent time with them. 

We sometimes have to be intentional to do the things that are most important.

Those are human examples, but the principle is the same if we are to spend time with Jesus.  We have to clear the space to do it, and then get on with it.  Try setting the timer on your mobile phone for 5 minutes sometime when you have a little slack time and just spend it with God.  It’s amazing!

I have spoken mostly about taking time out on a daily basis, but from time to time it is good to do something more.  It could be attending the monthly Wholeness and Healing Service, or you might go to see Adrian Plass at Newton Regis, Ben goes to Mirfield on retreat, Geoff and Jan Wyatt go to Lea Abbey in Devon, have a chat with them about how they find that. 

All of us here are Christians or are interested in Christianity.  This spending time with God is something we have to work at, it can be hard to start with, but it’s so worthwhile.  It adjusts our perspective and our priorities.  Start small, then try bigger steps as Jesus calls.  He calls us, as he called the disciples, to be with him in a quiet place and get some rest.  Who, as a Christian, wouldn’t want that?

The quiz or the talk may have sparked off thoughts of times when we’ve got things wrong, and suffered symptoms of the Hurry Sickness that affected not just us, but the people around us.  If it has, say “Sorry” to God for them, plan to do better, and hear the words of this prayer.

Father, thank you that when we come to you saying sorry for what we’ve done,
and really truly want to go on with our lives in a new way,
you will wipe away the things we’ve done wrong
as if they never happened. 
But Father, we thank you too that if we come,
knowing we should be able to say sorry but finding it difficult or impossible,
remind us that with you nothing is impossible. 
Help us to know you have not abandoned us,
but walk beside us and continue to speak to us. 
Thank you Father.