Summary: Like a carnival ride, our modern lives seem to be spinning out of control. But busyness is the enemy of the spiritual life. As Elijah discovered, God is not in the busyness - the earthquake, wind and fire - but in the quiet whisper.
“MIND YOUR BUSYNESS”
First Presbyterian Church, Corpus Christi, TX
Rev. Charles S. Blackshear • May 6, 2012
For the past week the Buc Days carnival has been going on night and day across the street from us here with all sorts of rides spinning and whirling around. If you’ve been to a carnival you know that the point of most of the rides is to move you around really fast without actually going anywhere and the rides only stop long enough to let people on and off and then they do it all over again.
It kind of reminds me of life these days. Do any of you ever feel as I do that life seems like a carnival ride? To me it seems as though the days and weeks fly by with meetings and appointments, soccer and basketball games, and lots of driving. The only word to describe life in today’s society is “busy.”
That’s the only way to describe the last couple of weeks for me. It seems as though I’ve been going from one meeting or activity to another, with multiple events on the same day. One day, however, I was able to go home for lunch and just relax for a few moments in the quiet. So I began to ask God to show me what I should preach about this week. Almost instantly I felt like His response was “busy!” And so I suspect that some of you have experienced “busyness” in your life at some time.
The problem is not the activities themselves that fill up our time. For the most part they are worthwhile things. We wouldn’t call spending time with family or attending your child or grandchild’s sporting event a bad thing. The problem is when we have so many good things in our life that they distract us from the best thing – our relationship with Christ.
One way to tell if you are too busy is to ask yourself, “how well does the beginning of Psalm 23 describe my daily life?” It says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.”
Our Scripture reading this morning begins by telling us that the prophet Elijah has “come to a cave and lodged in it.” The truth is that Elijah is hiding in the cave.” In the previous chapters Elijah has not exactly been making friends. King Ahab was a downright evil king, in fact chapter 16 says that Ahab did more to anger God than any other king before him. What Ahab did was set up altars to the false god Baal so the people could worship this idol.
So after three years of drought the Lord sends Elijah to confront Ahab again. Elijah then challenges the prophets of Baal to a competition. They each build an altar, put wood on the altar and prepare a sacrifice. Each of them is to then call upon their God and the one who answers by lighting the fire is the real God. So the Baal prophets go first and nothing happens. Then it’s Elijah’s turn and he has them soak the wood in water. Lots and lots of water. Then he prays and the Lord sends fire that not only lights the wood but consumes it, along with the sacrifice and all of the standing water.
Needless to say this makes Queen Jezebel, who happens to like her Baal religion, very unhappy and so she wants Elijah dead. So he runs away, which is how he ends up in this cave. Elijah’s life has been very busy. In fact, Elijah has been busy doing God’s work. Twice he says, “I have been very jealous for the Lord.” But there’s a problem. Elijah comes to the cave burned out, depressed, and angry at God.
Our reading from Luke 10 is a very familiar passage for many of us. Jesus comes to stay at the home of Mary and Martha. We’re told in verse 40 that, “Martha was distracted with much serving.” Here Jesus, God Himself, is sitting in her living room. There’s a whole lot that needs to be done to get supper served and Mary is just sitting there listening to Jesus talk. Martha was very busy. And she’s a little angry also.
Here’s the thing: Busyness and hurrying is the great enemy of spiritual life in our time. We live in a society that values busyness. Crowded schedules are the proof to ourselves that we’re important. So we fill up our time to be very busy, or at least appear busy. But when we’re that busy we can no longer hear God speak to us.
Our reading tells us that God told Elijah to go stand at the entrance to the cave and then it says, “behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”