Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: ‘How did I get so busy?’

Fifth Sunday of Lent
21 March 2021
Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

Since the closure of the Priory last year, I have been celebrating Holy Communion along with just my wife or children

We always light the candles

Candles on the altar, as you may know, should always be lit, right to left

And then extinguished the other way around

This is because the candle on the left represents the Gospel, and should never be left burning by itself

This may seem extraordinary but nothing in the Church is done by accident –

However, when lighting the candles, I have noticed that, if I light the candle on the right first, I can sometimes use the same match to light the candle on the left too

However, if I rush, the match goes out

The slower I take it, the more likelihood there is of lighting both candles with one match

Put another way, the light of Christ burns brightest if I am not in a hurry

I have recently been reading a book called “Finding Sanctuary”

It is written by Christopher Jamieson who was formerly the Abbot at Worth Abbey

The book was written as a result of a pioneering television programme called “The Monastery”

The programme followed five men living the monastic life for forty days and forty nights

When these men left the monastery, they were far more in touch with their lives than they had been when arrived

The book has obvious parallels with our own journey through Lent but the book starts by asking the startling question

“How did I get so busy?”

The Abbot noticed that all five men who came to the Monastery found it almost impossible not to be busy when they arrived

They found it impossible to remain still

But this constant business was the great enemy of their spiritual life in the Monastery

Indeed, busyness has been described as some as disease in its own right

It has even been labelled “hurry sickness”

This Sunday is the fifth Sunday in Lent

We have now been travelling through Lent for the past thirty two days

It seems, possibly to some, to be dragging on interminably

No doubt compounded by the seemingly everlasting lockdown, and very slow release, many of us are becoming very impatient

Indeed, we want to become busy again –

But, peculiarly, this is the antithesis of a healthy spiritual life

Indeed, there is good reason why Lent goes on for as long as it does

First and foremost, the Kingdom of God is a slow process

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is the God’s Kingdom

Christian life is a marathon and not a sprint

Discipleship and holiness are built slowly with years of patience

And Lent helps to train us for this discipleship

There are no short cuts to Lent and we must all learn to embrace its length

Secondly, if we were to accelerate the season of Lent, then we would be denied the chance to listen to God and to respond to him

And if we fail to listen and fail to respond, we are denied the chance to grow as Christians

There is no substitute for slow patient work

Effort and will are better than quick-fix cures

Thirdly short cuts don’t generally work –

Rather like a crash diet you generally end up making no progress at all

Indeed, it is interesting to note that when the devil tried to tempt Jesus, he tempts him with short cuts

Instant gratification was on hand with loaves of bread

Instant salvation at the hands of the angels

And all the riches in world to get rich quick

However, as the devil no doubt knew, the taking of a short cut, would have robbed Jesus of his growth in discipleship

Just as it would rob us at the same time

We all need to slow down if we are to grow in faith

In a remarkable new book called the “Ruthless elimination of hurry” the author Mark Comer reflects on the spiritual impact of hurry

And told a story which went as follows

At the height of Empire, an English traveller landed in Africa and was intent on a rapid journey into the jungle. He chartered some local porters to carry his supplies. After an exhausting day of travel, he got up to continue his journey. But the porters refused. Exasperated he began to cajole, bribe, plead but nothing worked

He took stock and asked the chief porter “why?”

He answered

“They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies

I have found the book incredibly helpful as someone who is always in a rush

Hurry kills:

Relationships

Joy

Wisdom

Indeed, all that we hold dear………spirituality, health, marriage, family, thoughtful work, creativity, generosity…name your value

But above all, it can destroy your soul

And so on this fifth Sunday of Lent

Let us remember to savour what time we have left to us in Lent

Let us reflect on what lockdown may have taught us about slowing down our lives

And the spiritual benefits it can bring

And let us remember, that the light burns brighter and longer when we are no longer in a rush

Indeed, paradoxically, with our spirituality re-kindled, we can do far more with our lives than we ever could if we rushed