Lectionary Reflection for the Reign of Christ Sunday, Year C
November 20, 2016
Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10
One of the struggles I’ve long faced as a disciple and pastor is that of incorporating more “being” into my life and work and less “doing.” I’ve always been a hard worker; in fact, those who know me well have sometimes called me out on my “workaholic” tendencies. It’s not that I don’t realize that there is no divine prize for “she-who-worked-later-and-longer” in the reign of Christ, it’s just that I have trouble letting go sometimes and letting some things even (horror!) remain undone.
Others may resort to “doing” as a way to ignore or escape the anxiety of and lack of control over life. Packing their schedules full of stuff to “do” serves as a palatable out from thinking about the hard questions of life and the struggles we all inevitably face. If the world is too overwhelming, just find something to do that will take your mind off of it. Unfortunately, avoiding reality is not a long-term solution, and the problems and decisions are often only magnified and even less manageable when one returns to them. Whether you define such behaviors as compulsive conscientiousness or first-rate anxiety avoidance strategies, at the root of the behavior is sin—pure and simple.
It is not good stewardship to be a compulsive “doer” either. Too much “doing” and not enough “being” leads to frustration, exhaustion, and burnout. It’s easy to deny that fact until overdoing it wallops you and leaves you flat on your face. Ever wonder why some church council presidents leave not only the office but also take a “sabbatical” from the congregation when their term is up? Are there any “worker bees” in your context who suddenly fly away from leadership and long-term commitments? Have you ever had a vocational church worker or pastor leave the ministry simply because they are exhausted emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Maybe you’ve known a leader whose workaholic tendencies and/or hubris have led him or her to commit a boundary violation that ended a fruitful ministry, and perhaps a marriage.
This week’s psalm is a powerful call to remember the source of everything—every single action and breath. Whether you would be considered a workaholic or a worrywart, the antidote to the sin is the same. Turn your attention and your trust to God, the one who offers refuge and gives strength, no matter how rough the going gets. The psalmist’s message is particularly applicable for those citizens still struggling with the results of the United States elections. Even if the nation seems to be in an uproar, God is the one with ultimate control, and God is with us.
It is an act of stewardship to stop our excessive “doing” and spend time “being” with God. It is not easy to slow down, and it is certainly countercultural in our over-scheduled, multi-tasking society, but making dedicated time to focus on God is essential to our overall well-being. In fact, the busier we find ourselves, the more we need to find time to be with God. Martin Luther knew this well, saying “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
I’d even make the case that if you want happier, more invested congregants, first help equip them to be in deeper relationship with God. By spending time in prayer, reflection, and Sabbath, they may unlock their passions for ministry in a way that is not bound by duty and obligation but rather by joy and love for God and neighbor. So go ahead, be still. Take some deep breaths and rest in the presence of Christ who loves you so very much. Let Jesus reign supreme in your life. You’ll be glad you did.
Consider your pacing in worship today. How might you slow down and allow space for “being” in God’s presence. As worship leaders, we can set the tone by our gestures, speaking tone, and pace. Give yourself extra time, if possible, to prepare for worship with some deep breaths and spacious prayer.
Consider introducing your youth to Martin Luther’s short “A Simple Way to Pray,” written to his barber, Peter Beskendorf. With a little work you could also adapt this treatise for a multi-generational faith formation event or series. The more you are able to encourage prayer in your congregation, the more you will begin to see stronger and deeper faith connections formed.
This Sunday introduce the children to “Cosmic Christ” in the epistle reading from Colossians. Start by asking them with which “super heroes” they are familiar. You could also provide prompts in the form of pictures of Superman, the Incredibles, and other super heroes. What traits make these “super heroes” super? Next ask them if they’ve ever thought about Jesus being the ultimate super hero? Of course he doesn’t have a cape, he isn’t on TV or the movie screen, but the writer of Colossians definitely paints that image of Jesus: He rescues us, created everything in and through him, holds all things together, is the beginning, and in him the fullness of God dwells. Because we are Christians, or “Little Christs,” we can work with Jesus to help heal the world in his name. We can do all the good we can, whenever and wherever we can, in Jesus’ name.
Finish with the benediction from verses 11-12 and a simple prayer.