In our busy world, we regularly forget that we were not made to go hard 24/7. We were made to spend six days in our work, and one day in rest. And that rest – that gift of Sabbath – should include availing ourselves of God’s gifts of solitude and silence.
Sometimes, I am amazed at God’s ability with irony.
The past two weeks, I’ve been running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off: flitting from one responsibility to the next, hardly budgeting time for personal renewal, to allow my soul to catch up with my body. This isn’t terribly new, and is certainly not unique to me. But today, I’m reflecting on the irony.
What is so ironic? This Sunday, as part of the “Growing in Holiness” series at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, I will be preaching on the subject of “God’s Invitation to Being”. And I know for certain that I will be preaching that sermon – once it is finally prepared! – to myself before preaching it among those who gather for worship on Sunday.
Any preacher worth his or her salt willingly preaches his or her own sermons to the self before preaching them to others. And by that I don’t just mean rehearsing. As a preacher, I need to take what I say to heart before I can expect anyone else to do so. Just as a leader can only lead people as far as the leader has gone, or is willing to go, so a preacher can only be authentic in the preaching of a sermon that she or he has integrated or is willing to integrate into her or his life.
This is an important principle for all believers, that we practise what we preach – even if we aren’t “preachers”, as such. Sometimes, we proclaim God’s good news by how we live far more effectively than by what we say. Still, what we do and what we say should match what we profess to believe. It’s not always easy, and we always make mistakes. But if we say we believe something, we should do our level best, in the grace of God, to put it into practice…even if that means making some sacrifices, or saying “no” when you want to say “yes”.
The Lord Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their unwillingness to practise what they preached: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23.1-4, NLT).
I don’t want to be a stumbling block to those among whom I serve, so I’m going to listen carefully to the message I preach this week, and put it to work!
Last night, I admitted to a friend that I had not yet prepared the Encouragement, and wasn’t sure about what I would write. He suggested that I might write about the irony of my need to slow down in order to do things like write the Encouragement! Not a bad idea. 🙂
I wrote a few weeks ago about how disturbing I find it to see transportation vessels in some position other than what is intended – such as the Costa Concordia lying half-submerged on its side in the sea. As a railfan, you can imagine how disturbing I found it to see the accident involving VIA Rail Train #92 earlier this week. Seeing FP40-2 locomotive #6444 lying down in the ballast on the engineer’s side was very disturbing, as was the loss of the three crew members’ lives.
Like many others awaiting the findings of the Transportation Safety Board, I was wondering, What could have caused this derailment? After all, the weather was clear, it was a straight stretch, the track appeared to have been in good repair; the train was using a crossover to move from one track to another. Then came the report: the train was moving at 67 miles per hour, when the legal speed to move through a crossover is 15 miles per hour. And no brakes had been applied. Ouch.
There may be many unanswered and unanswerable questions surrounding this tragedy. But there also may be lessons for us in our walk with God.
Slow down when you’re changing tracks. The physics of how trains move through crossovers necessitate that it be a relatively slow movement compared with normal track speed. For us, the emotion of significant change in our lives necessitates that it happen slower than the normal pace of life. For example, when someone you love dies, you’re ‘changing tracks’: let the process of grieving take its course, and don’t be afraid to let that happen slowly. Or, if you are retiring, that means ‘changing tracks’ too; ease into it, and take the time to get used to the change.
Be aware that your movements are being recorded in the “black box”. Unfortunately for this incident, the railways’ “black boxes” (which are orange!) don’t record voices in the cab, unlike aircraft “black boxes” which do. Had there been an indication of what the two engineers and the trainee were talking about, it might have given the Transportation Safety Board some clues as to why the train was speeding through a crossover. In our lives, however, nothing we do is truly kept in secret. God, who is all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere, knows what we say and what we do at all times. I don’t mean by this that we should view God as a “Big Brother” figure, or even a Santa Claus figure; no, God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent with a purpose of love. He longs for us to be in constant conversation with him, and he is disappointed when what we do or say does not reflect the faith we profess. And Scripture says that we will be judged at the end of time based on what’s in our “black box”, but that’s a judgment not for our salvation (which is based on faith), but for some other divinely intended purpose.
It may seem like a stretch to pull these thoughts from the tragedy of a train derailment, but they are meant to encourage us to pay careful attention to the details of our lives, that we may live them to God’s glory!
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90.12, NIV).