21.2.16 – The Rhythm Of A Balanced Life – Rachel Judge

 

Scripture Readings: Luke 10: 38 – 42 & Colossians 1: 21 – 23

Odd question, but what sort of a gymnast are you? How’s your balance?

Would you now, or maybe a few years ago, have ever rivalled those tiny Eastern European young women, still girls really, contortionists almost, with their dexterity, flexibility and strength?

Can you imagine yourself on a beam, balancing delicately –  or flopping inelegantly onto the floor?

A precarious act indeed is a balancing act. But as followers of Jesus we desire to live a balanced life, walking step by step in Jesus’ footprints, in a regular rhythm on our destination to be ever with God.

Let’s pray, as we prepare to ingest God’s Word, and live by it…..

Gracious God,

We know all too well that on our own we stumble and fall, so now as we bask in your presence, we need your help to live in harmony with your purposes for us.

Name us, claim us and inspire us we pray to move in rhythm with you, step by step. Move among us, Holy Spirit, so that my words may be your words and our thoughts your thoughts, we pray in the Name of Jesus, our Life-Giver.

Amen

Every day we have a choice. We are free to choose whose voice we listen to.

It’s an open contest out there for our ears and hearts. Thousands of voices, incessant messages competing for our time and attention every day.  Worthy causes, needy people, social media, opportunities to improve our minds, change our bodies, and massage our egos. Who will we listen to? Who will we answer? We are free to choose.

Happily, we have biblical role models who inspire us to make the right choice, to say ‘yes’ when God calls us.

  • Noah had the choice of building an ark or not building an ark.  Fortunately for us (and him), he chose to build it.
  • Moses stood before a burning bush and said yes to God.
  • Mary, so young, so trusting said yes, with her beautiful answer, “my soul magnifies the Lord”.
  • The disciples said “yes” even though it meant danger, an uncertain life style and persecution. Simon, (later called Peter), Andrew, James and John left their nets and followed him.   They said yes, even though it meant leaving everything behind.
  • Mary said ‘yes’ to Jesus while at home with her sister. Jesus happened to pop in to see his friends, Mary and Martha in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem, with an invitation to learn from him, and spend time with him. His invitation could be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Martha, trapped in the expectations that her society has of her, can’t allow the ‘yes’ to escape from her mouth. Instead  the struggle inside of her between the sweetness of offering her mind and her heart, her time and her attention to Jesus, and continuing on with the same old, same old patterns,  makes her look in this painting anyway, like she wants to throw the jug at Jesus, possibly, hopefully grazing Mary on the way.

Instead of such angst, what we seek is a balanced life. A life style that allows us to sit at Jesus’ feet, as we listen for his voice, hear His word, and then obey as we put it into action, in our daily lives – serving, teaching, showing compassion, offering hospitality, striving after justice, sharing God’s transforming power with others – being Mary and Martha sometimes all in one day – a balanced life.

In her book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver encourages us to “be like Mary, worshipping extravagantly, sitting at his feet,’ resisting that other voice which tells us there’s so much to do, so many legitimate needs, surrounding us, compelling us to work, and instead hearing God’s tender call to come away and answering ‘Yes, Lord, I will come.’

We, I, seem to need to prove ourselves by rushing around in a hectic life style of meeting expectations of others, rather than simply dwelling in God’s presence.

But the psalmist reminds us that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, our God who claims us completely not by force or great drama, but in stillness. The inference is clear – God’s power will be revealed when we acknowledge God’s ways and worship in wonder before Him:

“Be still and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46: 10)

So, if peace is what we crave, acknowledging God’s power in reverence and stillness is the place to start.

For God in his wisdom has laid the foundations for us in building a rhythmic pattern into our lives, of work and rest, that helps us keep balanced. We’re much less in danger then of toppling over, either on the outside, or the inside! I certainly admit I need more discipline in my Sabbath keeping, so I’m working on it, for Sabbath keeping is a biblical injunction which simply makes incredible sense.

The creation account finishes likes this – Genesis 2: 2 – 3:

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing: so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”

Peace will cloak us if we can pause long enough to admit that we are nothing on our own, but desperately need God’s strength in us. Honouring the Sabbath as God’s gift to us is the healthiest rhythm, built in to creation, to enable us to rest in his glory, shedding the pressures of the past week.

And then on a yearly basis, the season of Lent, now,  is a time for us, in a mode of repose, to rest at the feet of our Lord, and to listen to His voice. It’s a time for us to confess how lost we are on our own, and how much we need his direction.

These weeks leading up to Christ’s tragic but ultimately glorious death, and resurrection, we lean into him further, closer so we can hear the words of life we desperately need in our busy world.

Dame Julian of Norwich, one of the mystics in the Middle Ages commented that we should say ‘yes’ to God whenever we experience him. Holy patterns in our lives, of regular Bible reading and study, observing the Sabbath, spiritual retreats or quiet days or silence before God on our own are all ways of keeping a balanced rhythm to our lives, and responding to God with a resounding ‘yes’. If we’re not carefully staying alert for God’s voice, hearing Him attentively and replying positively, we are in danger, by default, of ‘saying yes’ willy nilly to anything and everything else.

Another mystic, living just after Middle Ages, who we know as Brother Lawrence, was born as Nicolas Herman in the region of Lorraine, now in the north of France. As a lay brother in a Carmelite Priory he became known as Lawrence of the Resurrection, and particularly as a cook for the other monks for most of his life, and as a repairer of sandals in his later life.

Although Brother Lawrence was nearer the bottom then the top of the pecking order, both in life and in the priory, he became well known for the revelations God gave him, and people came from far and wide to seek his spiritual advice (I always imagined they prayed and talked with him in the kitchen while he was stirring the soup!). In any case the wisdom he received from God, and passed on to others, later  found its way into his book ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ which still instructs and encourages Christians and seekers today.

Brother Lawrence is well known for this prayer which reminds us that God can use anything we offer Him to glorify Him, even service which others consider lowly.

We can say yes to God in every part of our lives, as could Mary – and Martha, with the right attitude. People can sense in us, as they could in the peaceful, contented way that Brother Lawrence served others, the serenity of God that comes from a life submitted to Him. And the wonderful truth that I’ve found is that one ‘yes to God’ naturally leads to another.  We know that God will ask things of us again and again, just as we ask God for his help time and time again.    And by continually saying “yes” to God, we can have the satisfaction that the Apostle Paul felt near the end of his life, when he knew that he had “fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith”.  2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) What a holy satisfaction that will be.

Then too, let’s not forget that prayer is a two-way conversation, when we listen as much as we talk.  We ask many things of God, so we shouldn’t be surprised if He asks many things of us.  In fact earlier in Luke chapter 10, introducing the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks an expert in the law, who is trying to trap Jesus, ‘’what is written in the law?” The expert no doubt puffs out his chest, clears his throat, and deepens his voice to pronounce ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’

We can imagine the silence after this pronouncement as everyone waited to see how Jesus would respond. I imagine Jesus’ words flummoxed some of the scribes and the Pharisees who were no doubt listening in, for Jesus replied simply and powerfully “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live,”

If we listen carefully, we will discern what God is asking, and the answer most pleasing to God will be “YES”. Or as Jesus replies to Martha, ‘Mary has chosen the better part.’

Listen carefully.  Listen this week to God beyond what others are saying, beyond your experiences of daily life. Every day this week, listen to the voice of Jesus. Listen and when you hear his voice, just say “YES”.

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