Summary: Part 9 in series Slowing Down, Dave talks about the four components of The Daily Office - stopping, centering, silence, and scripture.
Slowing Down, part 9
Wildwind Community Church
January 31, 2009
Upward mobility is the strongest pull of our culture. When you think of the American dream, what do you think of? I think about someone starting out poor who is able to start a business, and work hard until it becomes profitable, and then maybe sell it to a larger company and use the profit to start an even bigger and more successful business, which goes public, and eventually is worth millions of dollars. That to me is the American dream. And if that’s not exactly what you think of when you think of the American dream, then any differences are likely differences in extent, not in essence. In other words, there might be differences in in how far you imagine a person going, but what we all think of is a person who starts in a low position and moves to a high position – usually involving power, prestige, and/or money.
That’s the American dream. The problem is, that’s not really how Jesus defined success. Jesus’ seemed to define success as continual downward mobility. Continual giving up of ourselves and our lives and our ambitions, to embrace God’s plan for us.
Matthew 10:39 (NIV)
39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Tonight I want to talk to you about downward mobility. Downward mobility.
We live in a culture that says we have an inalienable right to “the pursuit of happiness.” The assumption is that as we “move up” in the world, we will become increasingly happy – that the way of happiness is the way of upward mobility. The only problem with that is that religion has always shown what is now known to psychology – happiness will never be found as long as it is pursued. That’s like trying to pursue intimacy. You will never find intimacy in your marriage. It’s not something that can be pursued. But what you can pursue is a few more moments together. What you can do is shut off the TV and talk. What you can do is go for a walk. What you can pursue is getting some counseling. What you can pursue is a plan to take a vacation together. What you can pursue is worshipping together and creating a strong set of shared values. If you do all those things that CAN be pursued, intimacy will ensue – it will be the by-product of a lot of other things you pursued.
That’s the way happiness is. That’s the way peace is. We can’t find them while we search for them, but what we can do is find out how happy people live and learn to live like that. We can find out how peaceful people live and learn to live like that.
Jesus is actually saying that life itself is built on this same principle. Rather than trying to improve our lives, rather than pursuing upward mobility and always trying to get more for ourselves, what we have to do is forget about all that stuff, and empty ourselves of it. See, the main reason I am unhappy is because of me! I’m my own worst enemy, and so are you!
James 4:1-3 (NCV)
1 Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that war within you.
2 You want things, but you do not have them. So you are ready to kill and are jealous of other people, but you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight. You do not get what you want, because you do not ask God.
3 Or when you ask, you do not receive because the reason you ask is wrong. You want things so you can use them for your own pleasures.
All this comes from the selfish desires that are located where? Inside of me! So the harder I try to find happiness, the harder I push to get all the stuff I want, the more I am depending on the very person who is the problem, and that’s me.
That’s why Jesus said we have to lay down our lives. Jesus holds out to you and me the liberating promise of continual downward mobility! In laying down our lives, in refusing to pursue our own happiness, we find ourselves happy. In refusing to defend ourselves, we find that we are able to rest in God who is our defender and provider. In refusing to be dominated by our schedules and calendars, we find ourselves living in a world that is beyond time. That’s why observing the Sabbath is an act of rebellion against our culture. Our culture says we are invaluable, far too busy to do nothing for a day. Sabbath says, “Phooey – I’m not that important – watch how well the world will go on without me today. I don’t have to be out there 24/7 making things happen.” When we serve a timeless God, what difference does a day a week make?