In the name of God. Amen.
As much as I value our tradition, and the beauty of worship, and all the ways that we endeavor to show that our actions here in this place and during our times of prayer and praise transcend everyday reality – it’s also true that I appreciate a little irreverence, now and then, too. So when I read the gospel earlier this week, I was reminded of one of my favorite bumper stickers of all time. It says, “Jesus is coming. Look busy!”
I think anyone who has ever been under the supervision of some authority figure can relate. If the boss is walking by, we can feel this urge to justify our existence – to look busy. And in the church, we often fall victim to this same trap.
I was once a part of a diocesan organization and I used to joke that the staff person at Episcopal House who provided support for our work must have been paid by the ream of paper. Every time we had a meeting, it was as if the main purpose of the meeting was for her to throw page after page at us – never really explaining its relevance, and never really seeming to lead to any meaningful action. Just page after page to show us how busy she was.
As our own schedules are gearing up this fall, I worry about that for us. We are a busy church – we have a lot going on. Fundraisers. Outreach activities. Meetings. Social events. In the Stewardship Commission meeting earlier this week, it became almost laughable as we talked about the various sign-up sheets we were going to need to put out at the entrance of the church in the coming weeks.
While I do believe that the activities that are going on at this church are good – and for the greater good: they’re about making sure we’re financially stable, and that our members are engaged, and that our community is meeting the needs each of us has and that we’re equipped to answer Christ’s calling – even so it’s important for us to check in with ourselves from time to time to make sure we’re not just busy for the sake of being busy. Or worse – that we’re not just trying to “look busy” because we think that what we’re supposed to do or supposed to look like.
It’s a fine line. While we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, and while that takes work and makes us busy – it’s important to remember that busy-ness is not our salvation. Our salvation comes because that is God’s will for us. Our salvation comes because Christ saves us – even from ourselves.
The answer is right there in the gospel. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Don’t worry, it says. Don’t focus your attention on acquisition and success in the eyes of the world. That’s not what it takes to make God happy. God’s happiness comes from seeing you. God’s happiness comes from being in your presence. Those things that take up all your attention say more about what you love than what you say you love does.
And then, Jesus goes on to tell the parable about the servants who are ready for their master’s arrival. They have to be ready all the time, because they don’t know what their master is up to. They don’t know the master’s schedule. So they have to always be ready. It’s not enough to have a flurry of activity at the last minute. It’s not enough for them to look busy when the master arrives. They have to already be ready.
In our own lives, we don’t have the luxury of knowing when we’ll encounter God, from day to day. We don’t know when we’ll meet an incarnation of Christ. So it’s not enough to just look busy. We have to be ready.
Now, the getting ready can look a lot like being busy – but the busy-ness isn’t the point.
All the things that are coming up in the next several weeks around here – they’re important, and they’ll certainly make us busy – but the busy-ness isn’t the point. The point is to ready ourselves for ministry. The point is to make this community stronger, so we’ll be strong enough to do the work God has called us to do in the world. The point is praise God and to learn how we can be more ready when we meet God in our lives – in all the surprising ways that we will meet God, when we least expect it.
It’s important to do the work that it takes to be ready. But the waiting is also holy work. We’ve been taught not just to look busy, but to be alert.
May we be alert enough to see God – and more importantly to recognize God, even at those unexpected hours. Amen.