Sermon – 27th October 2019 – evening

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Last Sunday after Trinity – evening

Sunday 27th October 2019

Last Sunday after Trininty – evening
Eccles. 11&12
2 Tim 2. 1-7

Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs

Maureen Hoobs

This evening’s readings probably caused some consternation in the breast of our first reader tonight! They certainly did in the thoughts of our Magazine Editor.

“Two whole chapters? That can’t be right, surely?!” But yes, two whole if fairly short chapters is what is set for this evening. But I hope you now agree that it was worth it for the passage from the extraordinary book that we know as Ecclesiastes – the Preacher or Teacher, is worth hearing.

A few weeks ago Barbara Tritton was leading the pause for thought in our Youth Service and she reminded us of an experiment that was once conducted by a professor of philosophy. I don’t have the visual aids, so you will just have to use your imaginations!

Taking a glass jar, the professor filled it with large stones. He asked the class if the jar was full. They agreed it was, whereupon he took a box of pebbles and began adding them, shaking the jar when needed to make them slide between the gaps in the stones.

“Is the jar full now?” “Yes” came back the reply from the students.

He then took a bag of sand and tipped that into the jar. The sand of course slipped between the pebbles and the stones. Once more he asked if it was full. By now the students had begun to realise that he was toying with them! Lastly he took a jug of water, and poured that into the jar.

He then said, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The stones are the important things in your life and the pebbles are other things that matter, but are less significant. If you were to put the sand into the jar first, there would be no room for the pebbles or the stones. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that really matter. Take care of the stones first – the things that are most important to you – everything else should fit around them.

Another way of saying, “Fear or take notice of God and keep his commandments”…. they are the important things; everything else will take care of itself if you do.

It is a lesson we could all do with hearing – maybe me more than most. Like many clergy I am always fighting the diary and getting to the end of the day conscious of all the things I have failed to do. But it is only on those days when I know that I have not made enough time to sit quietly with God and listen to what he may be trying to tell me that i truly feel a sense of failure. One of my great heroes, Desmond Tutu used to tell how he made certain to spend at least one hour a day in prayer. A whole hour? Someone commented. But Archbishop, how can you find the time? Oh well, he said, some days of course I am very, very busy. It is difficult. So those are the days when I spend two hours in prayer with God!

There is a lot of good sound common sense in that. I come across too many colleagues who complain that they are too busy being the Vicar to be a priest! I am sure I am guilty of that too at times, but it is something I have tried for a long time to guard against. And you – as a church – have greatly blessed me in that by taking on many of the administrative burdens that are part of managing a church. But my vocation is to be your priest, not to manage this church – even if it is a good enterprise. And being only half-time in the parish, helps me to focus on that!

And clergy are not alone in this dilemma. I have often heard teachers bemoan the number of forms they now must fill in and that it takes them away from their first love of teaching young minds. Similarly doctors also find that clerical and computer tasks can easily displace their primary responsibility to care.

But if we fall victim to this, we really have no-one to blame but ourselves. For sometimes it is easier to take refuge in the system and the institution, than to grapple with the messiness of people and their problems.

So maybe we try to give people too much religion, and not enough faith in the living God? What do you think?

Don’t sweat the small stuff, our young people might tell us. Sound advice. Give your energy to the big questions that really matter – sufficient unto the day etc.

So next time you are feeling harassed and overwhelmed by everything that you think you have to do. Stop. Focus on the big things. Pray. And I bet you will find God will find ways to ensure that the world will not stop turning without you! Amen.