Clearing the Clutter

Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you

Life and Good
Death and Evil…
I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love GOD, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. (Deuteronomy 30)

(prayer)

How many of you have had a busy week? How many of you are looking ahead to a busy and jampacked week?
As we wait upon God’s word today, I want to invite you to take that little slip of paper you were given as you walked in this morning and to write down on it all of the things that take up your time right now. Everything – from walking the dog… to the hours you spend working or serving here at church… to the television shows you watch. What has occupied your week past and what kinds of things will occupy next week. It doesn’t have to be precise… this is just for you… an estimate. Let’s give ourselves about five minutes to do this…

How did it feel to write all of those things down? To name all of the ways that your life is busy?

If you were to lump these tasks and events into categories – things in your life that tug on you and pull on you from different directions, what kind of categories might we lift up?

(work, family, church, sports, recreation…)
That is quite a list!

Each and every single day of our lives, we are bombarded with choices. We are pulled by commitments. We are asked to live within these multiple communities.

For these past few weeks, we have been taking a look at the world through Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. As we have done so, we have become aware of some realities about this world outside the church walls.

1) It is a win/lose world out there… and sometimes we let that seep into our church life as well. Instead of getting wrapped up in winning and losing, we are called to be fools for Christ.

2) This world is full of fads and changing tides… and the church is often quick to jump on the bandwagon and lose the core of our message. Instead, we need to keep centered on the cross and the good news of God.

3) The world tells us bigger is better. The church often believes that and feels pressure to get more butts in the seats and more dollars in the offering plate. But Paul reminds us that our weakness is God’s strength and that small churches can do powerful things.

Today, the reality we face is that we are busy people. We are pulled in so many different directions. Some weeks, I know it is hard for you to give the church even an hour of your time.

And we all know the families that surround us who run with their kids from this thing to that and on Sunday mornings breathe a sigh of relief that one more week is over… but can’t we please stay in bed for another hour.

This world is exhausting.

It is fast paced.

It is chaotic.

It drains us.

This morning in our scriptures, we are reminded that we have a choice in this world between the things that give us life and the things that take life away.

As Moses stood before the people on the edge of the promised land, he shared with them the simple choice they faced.

I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love GOD, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him.

The people quickly chose life! Who wouldn’t right? They mentally made the assent that they would live according to God, that they would love God and their neighbor…

But then they crossed into the land of milk and honey and before they even realized it, they were caught up in distractions. Their choice never got translated from their head into their hearts and into their hands. And they found themselves broken and scattered and falling apart in exile. Moses had spoken truthfully… If you have a change of heart… you will most certainly die.

Fast forward many, many generations.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth and offers a piece of wisdom:

 

“It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene… The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along… God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us… he taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way…

The simple truth, Paul passes along is this:

The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion.”

Do we want to choose life in this generation? Do we want to choose the ways of God?

Then we have to make room for the Spirit. We have to spend time with our Lord.

We have to clear some space in the chaos of these things that tug on us for God.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that we can offer one another and all of those busy, exhausted families outside those doors is Sabbath.

Space…

Time…

To simply let God into our lives.

Sabbath, at its core, is taking time to remember that we do not create life – it is a gift from God.

The exhortation to rest on the Sabbath reminds us that we cannot do it all… and that ultimately the things of this world are in God’s hands.

At a recent clergy event, I was asked to help lead our opening worship.
I knew that some of them would be worried about folks at home who might be in the hospital or troubled. I knew that some would be thinking ahead to their sermons for the next Sunday. I knew some would have their minds set on their kids, or their parents, and the family concerns that plague them. I knew some would have their fingers ever connected to their blackberrys and would try to stay in contact with all of the business of the church, even as they were supposed to be fully present with us.

So, I lead the group in a ritual of setting aside the things that were on our minds. Much like what we did this morning, I invited them to write down all the things that were distracting them on a slip of paper and to fold it up and put it away.

This ritual was an act of trust… trust that for these six hours we were gathered together that our lives back home could wait… trust that our lay people in our churches could take care of the things we left them… trust that God in his infinite wisdom could be trusted to take care of these things so that we could focus and be present in this moment with one another and with God’s holy word.

Take that list that you made this morning.

It represents all of your choices and commitments and communities.


It represents all of the things that tug on your heart.

Sometimes these things lead us towards God… and sometimes they pull us away from the source of life.

For that is what God is… He is life itself and when we seek him we will find exuberant life.

Fold that piece of paper up and I want you to write four simple words that Dave Crow, our district superintendent shared with me…

“Choose Well. Choose Life.”

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