Do nothing for Lent

First Sunday in Lent   Audio here

Here’s a challenge for you – how often  do you think to yourself or say  to someone else that you are “really busy”?!

It’s very easily done,  it often seems as though “ yeah, good busy..” has taken over from “fine and how are you?” as the stock answer to “ How are you?”

It’s a kind of generic response –it says nothing much about what is going on in your life but conveys as sense that you’re not sitting around wasting time –it is almost a marker of value and importance,  I have loads on therefore I’m being worthwhile –

Our culture seems to regard busy-ness very highly, constant activity, that often seems to be more about talking about it than actually doing, Whole industries are based on time management and organisation –to do apps for your smart phone, reminders on your computer, more postit notes than you could ever need to remind you to do the next thing on your list as you rush from one activity to the next.

Because we’re not talking here really about healthy positive productivity and a full diary, this sort of attitude to busy-ness is a scourge.

I know I can be one of the worst offenders, it seems almost sacrilege to answer the question “ how are you” just with “ good thanks, and you?”

We almost need to justify ourselves.

Lent is often  a time to refocus, it’s certainly a time to look at our weaknesses and frailties,  to turn and start over with God’s help; to look at our values and what drives us.

As we turn to look towards the cross, what is it that we can do to free ourselves from the paralysing need to “ be busy”

Today we read the account of Jesus’s time in the desert –an extreme retreat as he starts his public ministry.

He’s not in any hurry to get going on his mission –he’s taking his time.

Listening to God’s timing is an important beginning, sometimes we in the church rush off with an idea, storming ahead, and wonder why it runs out of steam as we frantically run round attempting to get it going in our own strength.

Jesus waited,

And he confronted things

We all have things that distract us,  perhaps  Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the desert encapsulate all of these –he’s tempted by the material –in this case food.

Is much of our busy-ness fuelled by fear of falling off that treadmill of earning & spending and keeping up –maybe we think we’re immune to “materialism”  -we’re not bothered about gadgets or  clothes or cars, but do we buy into that culture all the same –and create busyness for ourselves?

Next Jesus is tempted by the distraction of power –

Are we? Do we volunteer for committees and organising groups because we’re scared of missing out? Of losing influence? Does this create extra work ?

Lastly Jesus is tempted by Pride – to test God

Do we think we know best? Even just sometimes?  We squash the little voice inside which tells us to slow down or ask for help  by saying “ its ok, I can manage”

Because maybe we think the world, or our little bit of it can’t function without us?

Jesus was able to refute Satan and stand against these temptations because ultimately he knew where his value and acceptance came from, it came from God, He’d heard it said at his Baptism –This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased

Even before he’d done a miracle or preached a word, God was please with him, he loved him – he was his Son.

Our value and worth also is not to be found in what we do, but in who we are, beloved children of God,

We need to slow down and take some notice of that occasionally, and ease ourselves out of the myth of “ busy is best”

This attitude of Busy is not  necessarily about how much is in your diary. Some of you  ( as I often do) might be thinking “ but my life IS full, it is packed and there’s no way I can drop any of it, without my family or my work or my commitments suffering”

We can have a full diary and not “ be busy”

We can honour our commitments, and not “ be busy”

I’m not talking about sitting around idly but describing ourselves as Busy is defining ourselves again by what we do.

We all know people who spend more time telling everyone how busy they are than doing anything – and those who really do pack it all in hardly ever mention the fact!!

When I was on retreat before Christmas I spent some time talking to one of the Sisters in the community,  she knew what I did and how tired I was and she gave me some advice,

She suggested first of all on retreat I didn’t worry about “ doing”

Not forcing prayer or reading or any holy and worth activity but simply being, doing absolutely nothing.. “ lie on the bed & look at the ceiling”

That was pretty hard, even with no pressing to do list and time to myself.

Later she suggested the discipline of doing  nothing on a daily basis  once I was home again– 10 mins 20 mins even, shock horror 30!

Just nothing, not prayer, not reading not the radio or the TV not anything.

What this does is start to break the hold that “ busy” has on our lives, it shows us that the world doesn’t stop when we do, that there are times and places and gaps.

It frees us the next time we stop for a coffee to pause a bit longer,

It frees us from having to describe ourselves as “ busy”

It allows space for God to ease back in to our lives –because even praying can become part of the “busy”

It’s like being able to breathe when you remove a tight belt,

I have to now confess that I have been utterly rubbish at  that discipline –but I have craved it and thought it and I have really tried not to answer “ how are you?” with “ busy”

And so for Lent I’m making a real effort to stop and do nothing.

Feel free to ask me how it’s going anytime!! And feel free to raise an eyebrow if you hear me use that B word!

As we look in the coming weeks to how much Jesus gave for us, how much he laid down for us  so that we might know our true value, lets commit ourselves to  letting go of the things we’ve clung to that we’ve believed give us worth, but really don’t.

The busy attitude, the material things, the pride and the power.

Let’s remember that like Jesus we are the beloved children, with whom God is well pleased,

And let our Lent disciplines, what ever they are,  teach us more & more of his love for us as we trust Him  for everything.

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