by Elaine Hackney
In the 19th Century, ministers might have used an hour glass such as this to time their sermons, particularily in the “Wee Free Kirks. Don’t worry. I certainly won’t be speaking for an hour! Nor will I be following a friends tongue in cheek advice——-Face the congregation and say the words of the last hymn ‘BE STILL’ Pause and then say ‘That is the end of the sermon. Now go outside and enjoy God’s wonderful word!’ You will certainly be remembered for years to come“ he said! That would indeed be the shortest sermon on record!
9 year old Robbie, a young friend of mine, and his father have been tending their vegetable patches for some time now ready to harvest a bumper crop of potatoes, beans, leeks carrots, courgettes and tomatoes and sell for Church funds. His Dad came home recently after a long and arduous day at the office and asked Robbie if he had done his watering duties. ‘Daddy,’ I simply haven’t had the time’ said young Robbie . His parents were amused at this response but rather perplexed. Where was this coming from? After all he WAS on holiday for 8 weeks! Then they realised that he was simply using an expression that he was hearing frequently at home and in our society today.
Our world is speeding up and we all live at a much faster pace than our parents and grandparents. We keep trying to do more and more and this is taking its toll, creating stress in our lives. Being SO busy all the time depletes our reserves and we need to find time to recharge the batteries and restore balance to our lives.
My Dear, wise friend Eric Milton, here today with Sheila his lovely wife (Welcome to you both) referred me recently to Psalm 46 verse 10 having listened to my account of the day I had just spent. There in black and white were the words ‘Be still and know that I am God’ How well Eric knows me!
But it helped to channel my thoughts towards today’s sermon.
I am an ‘early bird’ and love to rise about 6 30 to walk round the 2 ponds at Monikie. At that time in the morning there is complete peace and I can enjoy the beautiful scenery looking right over to the rolling hills of Fife. 2 families of swans and their cygnets glide gracefully by through the water which can be like a millpond. Rabbits scurry by and occasionally I have come across a startled deer which pauses momentarily gazing at me with its limpid brown eyes before bounding away into the woods. This precious time in the morning has no demands and gives me time to be still and communicate with God asking his help for the rest of the day ahead. Now I understand why my own mother used to rise at least an hour before the rest of the family!
A young American college student was on a retreat one beautiful weekend in October. Her tutor announced that the students should go off outside and spend 45 minutes alone with God. The day before she had spotted 2 swings overlooking a lake with mountains in full Autumn colours behind—–the perfect place to spend time with God. As the group set off she overheard some others say ’Let’s go to the lake where the swings are. Immediately she was on ’Red Alert’! She simply had to get there first so off she raced dashing round the other way from the rest of the group in order to get there first. She rushed past a small white chapel, flew past a wooden cross and finally leaped on to the swing feeling good about her victory but too charged up to be still and know God. Then it hit her! She was too wrapped up in achieving an insignificant victory, therefore missing what was really important. In trying to be in control she had completely missed the things God wanted her to see on the way—-the small white chapel displaying Faith, the wooden cross for Hope and the gift of still time with God while sitting on the swing.
In Marks Gospel we read this morning of the busyness of Jesus’ life. When he returned with Simon Peter and Andrew to their house they found Simon’s mother in law very ill with a high fever. Despite the fact that Jesus must have been extremely tired and longing to rest with his friends and enjoy a meal with them, he went forward and took her hand. His personal touch and compassion healed her. Later that evening the whole village gathered outside and once again Jesus healed many, depleting his energies even further.
But Jesus knew his spiritual and physical energies were drained and he needed the time to recharge. So the next morning he rose very early when still dark and went off to a solitary place to pray to God. Then restored again he continued with his healing and ministry to those in need. You see, Jesus knew he had to prioritise and take time to pray and be with God.
Finding time to be still and pray is sometimes difficult when there are so many other demands on our time, but when we are doing so much, going too fast, we can’t hear God. We can only hear Him when we create stillness.
We need to listen more. Have you noticed that we are actually becoming a nation of interruptors! You have only to turn on the television to observe this in the many interviews that take place. People don’t let others complete their sentences. They talk over each other, interrupting all the time. Everybody is talking and it seems nobody is listening.People have become impatient and can’t even let others complete a thought before they jump in with what they want to say oblivious to the other’s point of view! How rude!
In Ecclesiastes we heard the words ‘A time to be silent and a time to speak. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. A good counsellor, after all has to be a good listener. My poor husband often complains that he can’t get a word in edgeways if we are out dining with friends because it seems no one wants to hear what he has to say!
Yes our lives have become too frantic. What happened to God’s Commandment to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. 6 days we are told to labour and do all our work but the Sabbath should be a day of rest. How I long sometimes for the days when I was a child at my Grandparents’ home in Stonehaven. Sunday was indeed a day of rest– a day to recharge, be with the family-a day where we had time for each other and kept God’s Commandment. In those days no shops were open. People attended Church often for a morning and an evening service. Families walked together, talked together sang hymns round the piano. Yes I’m sure you can remember these days too.
Recently we took our Grandson Rhys and his friend to the Iron Age Crannog at Loch Tay. There we took a step back in time to the days where families made everything from first principles. The wheat was planted then harvested then ground between 2 stones to make the flour for the bread. The people spun the wool and wove the cloth for their clothes , they carved their bows and arrows, bowls from which to eat, dug out canoes to travel the loch in search of food. They cut down trees to make their dwellings. And all these activities were done as a family together giving the children good learning experiences at first hand. Stories would be told round the fire bringing the family together at the end of the evening. It was a hard life but a simple one with NO rush!
If you drew a pie chart and divided it up in to how you spend your day, how would it look and just how much time would be put in for yourself? I guarantee a very small proportion! Our lives are out of balance and we need to re balance, be still and find time.
In one of Helen Steiner Rice’s books I found this poem
Were you too busy this morning to quietly stop and pray
Did you hurry and drink your coffee then frantically rush away
Consoling yourself by saying God will always be there
Waiting to hear my petitions and answer each prayer
It’s true the great generous Saviour forgives our Transgressions each day
And patiently waits for lost sheep who constantly seem to stray
But moments of prayer once omitted in the busy rush of day
Can never be recaptured for they silently slip away.
So seek the Lord in the morning and never forget Him at night
For prayer is an unfailing blessing that makes every burden seem light.
Most of you know of my involvement with the Mary Slessor Foundation. I have in the past given talks about Mary’s life and the work of the Foundation.
In conclusion I would like to quote the words inscribed on Mary’s tombstone out in Calabar.
Mary was a whirlwind and an earthquake and a fire and a still small voice all in one. Maybe we should all have a still small voice.