Be Still: Knowing and No-Ing

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 1:29-39

This time last summer I was diligently preparing for a week long mission experience in the beautiful town of Wahiawa, Hawaii.  Wahiawa is a suburb of Honolulu.  Now, you may say to yourself – “Hawaii is NO PLACE for a mission trip.”  Well actually, Hawaii is one of the most impoverished states in the United States.  In Honolulu alone close to 28% of the population live at or below the poverty line.  We travelled to Wahiawa to serve with Surfing The Nations.  We partnered with their feeding program and recreation ministry using eight wooden surfboards that Andrew’s youth had spent the previous year building from the boards up.  We gifted Surfing The Nations the surfboards at the conclusion of our trip.

While in Wahiawa I fell in love with Hawaii and it’s people.  It is not the beautiful vistas or the smell of pineapple in the breeze that makes my heart ache to return.  It’s the people.  People who are kind.  People who are generous even in their wanting.  People who even in their wanting hold their heads high and strive for a better future.  People who take the time to stop, to listen, to embrace, to encourage.  For these people I want to return.

There is a different rhythm of life in Hawaii – or at the very least where we stayed and served in and around Wahiawa and the North Shore.  People are single-taskers, which is very different from the culture of multi-taskers on the mainland.  Several times I was told by the staff to slow down!  I did not need to rush.  I did not need to be doing five things at once…because in doing so I was not giving any of those tasks my all – my best self.

One thing at a time was the prevailing modus operandi.  First this – and bring it to completion.  And then second this – but only if the first task is completed and you have enjoyed the completion.  And so on.

Like I said – a different rhythm of life.

As you are reading this, how many things are you also doing at the same time?  As I am writing this I am aware of emails being delivered, of texts coming in, of carrying on conversations in the office, of reviewing in my mind what I just wrote in my sermon, of responding to comments on my social media, of listening to music, and a whole host of other things that my subconscious is shushing at the moment.  I am a multi-tasking fiend!  But is it to my detriment or to my betterment?

We live in a culture where we feel we always need to be engaged…but is it engaged or entertained or distracted?  Do we want to have so many things going on around us because it unsettles us if we take the time to focus on one thing at a time?  Are we at odds with single-tasking and giving one thing at a time our best selves?

In our Scripture lesson for this week Jesus retreats from the multitasking of preaching, teaching, healing, and exorcising so that he could focus on one task – praying.  In the silence, alone, and attuned, Jesus prayed and Jesus listened.  And in doing so he knew what he needed to do.  He knew how his time of service would continue.  Yes, he eventually returned to multitasking, but in the quiet of that single-tasking moment, he gave his best self to God so God in turn would give Christ’s best self to the world.

In 1976 Billy Joel released “New York State of Mind” – and even though it was not released in the 80s I have great love for this music – it’s Billy Joel people!  Thinking “New York” makes me think about energy and movement and everything needed to be done yesterday.  But if you listen to Joel’s tune – it’s a ballad.  It’s meandering melody takes it’s time.  The song speaks of the joy of enjoying what the city has to offer – and enjoying it all in due course.

To me…that sounds like a single-taskers state of mind.  It sounds like a Wahiawa state of mind.  It sounds like giving the world – giving God – our best selves state of mind so that in turn God will give our best selves to the world.

Prayer: “Let us slow down; let us be in step with the One who walks with us in the journey. [Silence] Gracious Lord, you walk with us in this life and yet at times we are distracted and do not know that you are with us.  We confess our inability to see you; our unwillingness to hear you; our hesitation in following you.  And yet we believe that you are indeed present among us, mysteriously, in this very time and place.  Open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our hands.  Help us stop, rest, listen and learn.  Make us receptive to your presence, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord. [Silence] Lord Jesus, you are God with us – Emmanuel.  You call us not only disciples, but also friends.  Draw near to us, abide with us, and remus us in your image.  Amen.”*

*Kenneth H. Carter, Prayers and Liturgies of Confession and Assurance, Just in Time! (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), 36.