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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Epiphany 5 – Year B

If our lesson for this morning makes one thing clear, it’s that even Jesus needed time away, apart from the demands of his life and ministry, in order to connect with the Father. If the Messiah, the Christ, needed time apart with God how could we ever think that we could live any kind of a balanced, healthy life without also taking time and making room for God?
In our lesson for today we find Jesus making quite a name for himself. First he heals a man at Capernaum who is possessed by a demon (we read that passage last week). Then he heals Simon’s mother who is sick and perhaps dying from some kind of infection. Like a wildfire, news of Jesus’ healing powers spread around the area and by evening crowds of the sick, the lame, the possessed have gathered outside Simon’s home looking for Jesus to heal them too. We can imagine Jesus working far into the night trying to care for all the suffering people. But in the morning, before the crowds or even his disciples can find him, Jesus withdraws to a “deserted place” the gospel says (other translations say it was a “lonely place”). He withdraws to pray, to reconnect with God, to recharge himself for his ministry, to refocus and re-center himself. When Jesus’ friends finally find him they assume he will go back to Simon’s house to continue healing the sick and performing miracles. But Jesus does not go back; instead he tells his disciples that they must press on. He was called by God to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and while it might have been tempting to stay and become a powerful faith healer – that was not his mission.
Have you ever seen the movie – The Bridge on the River Kwai? It is one of my favorite World War II movies. If you haven’t seen it you should. The movie was released in 1957 and is based on a novel by French writer Pierre Boulle. It stars William Holden and Alec Guinness. The year it was released the film won seven Oscars including Best Picture. It is a great flick. It centers around a British officer, played by Alec Guinness, and his unit of soldiers who have been captured by the Japanese and forced to build a bridge across the River Kwai in Thailand. To make a long story short, Guinness’ character becomes so obsessed with this building project, so enamored with the work he is doing, that he completely loses sight of what’s important. Building the bridge becomes everything to him, to the extent that when British commandos (led by William Holden) arrive to blow up the bridge, Guinness at first fights against his own countrymen in an attempt to save his creation. It is only at the last minute that Guinness realizes the truth that the beautiful bridge he has constructed is actually a betrayal of his fellow soldiers and his country. It is only as his wounded body falls across the detonator that ignites the explosives to blow up the bridge that he realizes how warped his priorities have become and how much he has lost his way.
In our world of constant work, in our world of cell phones, Internet and the demands of being constantly connected, it is so easy to lose our way. It is so easy to lose our perspective, to allow ultimately unimportant things to hold much more importance in our lives than they deserve. It is easy to get our priorities out-of-wack. And for some people, it isn’t until the very end of life that they realize, that they wake up to the fact that they have dedicated far too much time to the wrong things. As the old saying goes, no one on their deathbed ever wished they’d spent an extra day at the office.
Just the other day I spent a few minutes sitting around watching old family videos. There was Eliza as a baby in her highchair smiling at the camera trying to mouth her first words. Marshall was just out of range but I could hear him talking with Melissa and playing with his Power Rangers. As I watched, I could remember that moment so many years before. It was just a normal day in our lives back then, two parents with small children trying to make it through their day, grabbing a view seconds of video along the way. I remember at the time being more concerned about what I had to do next than I was with what was happening at that moment holding the video camera. And yet, as I watched those little children, who are long gone now, all I wanted to do was reach through the screen snatch them up into my arms and never let them go. How is it that I did not better appreciate the magic of those moments? What was I thinking? Why was I worrying more about some future task instead of marveling in that present moment? It is easy to be so busy in life that you actually miss your life. It is easy to be so consumed with your life that you never actually experience the things that matter most.
It is said that if you watch the countless icebergs that float in the waters off the coast of Greenland you will notice that they all move in different directions. Some of them are relatively small while others are larger than ten ocean liners. At times the small ones move in one direction while their gigantic counterparts move in another. Why is this? It seems that the small ones are much more affected by the unpredictable winds that blow across the surface of the water while the huge ones extend down deep into the ocean and are therefore moved along by the deeper ocean currents. What Jesus understood and what we have to learn is that if we don’t make time for God, if we don’t take the time to step away and find our own deserted place to connect with our creator, then like those smaller icebergs we will always find our lives buffeted and driven by the trivial, the mundane, the daily pressures that blow across the surface of life. We have to learn to walk away, to shut the door, to find time for prayer in order to go deeper; in order to connect our selves to the deep source of God’s will for our lives. Jesus knew that only by turning to God could he ever hope to maintain his focus on the truly important things in his life. How could it be otherwise for you and me?
Lent is coming. It is the perfect occasion for each of us to carve out time in our lives to go deeper, to connect with God and the love that sustains each of us. Whether it is through emails like “God in Your Inbox” or programs like Contemplative Prayer, the church will be providing opportunities to deepen your relationship with God. Start thinking now about those forty days. Make a plan to reconnect with what really matters. Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us how and our God waits to greet us, teach us and bless our lives. Amen.

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