Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guest Moodler: Sermon on Enough...

My dearest friend, the one who encouraged me to start these moodlings, is a wonderful writer herself. She's also a parish nurse in a small United Church community on Vancouver Island. What follows is her sermon from last Sunday, which I think is brilliant! See for yourself.

Sermon on Enough
August 14, 2011
Cathy Coulter
          I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Martha and Mary. It‘s about women with real personalities. It’s a timeless situation that anyone can relate to…someone’s doing all the work and someone’s having all the fun. But I’ve always felt a little unhappy about the ending. I’m on Martha’s side in this story.  Martha’s doing the work that needs to be done, while Mary’s sitting around and Martha has the courage to speak out about the injustice of it. And Jesus chides her for it. Is it just me, or does this seem unfair?
          In this story, I imagine Martha wanted to make a nice meal for Jesus. Is that so bad? If you want a meal, not even a nice meal, just any meal, or a place to sleep or a clean house to eat or sleep in, there’s work to be done, and somebody has to do it.  Our lives are full of work to be done and somebody has to do it. Our church is full of work to be done and somebody has to do it.
          Somebody has to teach Sunday School.
          Somebody has to serve and clean up coffee.
          Somebody has to chair the board or the committees.
          Somebody has to usher, organize Harvest Fair booths, sit on Presbytery, fold the bulletins, set up garage sales, make sandwiches, feed the hungry, advocate for the marginalized, save the environment, speak out for justice and bring world peace.
          I remember from as early as high school, taking on projects because I felt they were essential and somebody had to do them. When I was 20 years old, a friend of mine called me BC which stood for Busy Cathy. I constantly overbooked myself because so many things were essential to me.
          Take Christmas, for an example. There are all those traditions that make it such a beautiful time of year. Staying in touch through Christmas cards, the decorations, the lights, the special baking, either travelling to or hosting family and friends. Add that to your regular work and family and community commitments and it can be too much. And yet I don’t want to give up any of it.
          I think if I use my time more efficiently, I can do it all. I’ll get everything done on my list and then I’ll be caught up and life will be perfect. Somewhere, there’s a land that I dream of where my to-do list gets done. People tell me it’s a myth but I hold out hope.
          To be honest, I’m not as busy as the Busy Cathy of my younger days. I’ve learned to be discerning and with age, to let go of things, even if I want to do them or think they’re important, even if that means they’ll fold. I’ve learned that I can’t do it all.  But I still find I’m tired. And I’m not the only one.
          I imagine Martha was tired. I think there are a lot of good people doing good things who are tired. And perhaps they pray, “Lord, can’t you tell my sister or someone to help me with this work, this good work that needs to be done to bring your kingdom on earth.”
          Well, a few weeks ago, I learned a new word that became my new favourite word. And I think it’s the word that Jesus was saying to Martha. That word is “enough”.
          Jesus was saying, “Martha, enough.”
          Jesus was saying:
          “Martha, you’ve done enough. There is enough food. The house is clean enough.”
          “Martha, you are enough. You are a worthy, valued child of God. You do not have to prove anything, or pay back anything by working harder and longer.
          “Martha, I, Jesus am enough. I am all that you need. Trust in God. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and everything that you need will be showered upon you with unimaginable abundance. In fact, look around. It already has been.”
          “Martha, you’ve only got me here for a little while and this life goes very fast and before you know it, it will have passed you by and guess what, Martha? That to-do list is never going to get completed.”
          My new favourite word. It’s the word I need to learn right now. I found this word in a book called “A life of being, having and doing enough” by Wayne Muller who also wrote an earlier book called “Sabbath” about how we need to build a Sabbath day, or day of rest, back into our lives. In his book about enough Muller says, “We have forgotten what enough feels like.”
          Our society is one that never says, “Enough”. It says, “More.” “Buy more, eat more, make more money, renovate more, travel more, text more, email more, watch more on TV, know more.” This more, more, more mantra has thrown off our internal thermostat so that we no longer know what is enough.
          Let’s talk about having enough first. I was visiting a friend in Edmonton and her parents went to tour one of those new homes that are raffled off in a hospital lottery. The house had an entertainment room with a bar and seven TV’s on the walls, I guess to watch 7 different sports or 7 different movies at the same time. The house also had a dog washer, like a mini car wash for a dog. I’d never heard of such a thing. The house was so full of excess; my friend’s father said it felt sinful. I think he’s right. It’s sinful to use up our planet’s resources on “too much” when so many don’t have enough.
          We’re wrecking the planet because we don’t know when to say “enough”.
          How about food in our society? We’ve got so much of it, and the environment and animal damaging factory farms are so efficient, that we can get novelty food like a “Baconator” or KFC‘s “Double Down” which is 2 pieces of fried chicken sandwiching some bacon and cheese. To me, it’s too much. It’s sinful when we don’t remember how precious food is anymore.
          Our “enough” thermostats are off. We don’t know when we have enough house, enough food, enough material goods.
          Let’s talk about doing enough. Wayne Muller says that the good work we are called to do “will never, ever be finished…not by us, not in our lifetime.” The work of caring for each other and the planet is not our work, it is the work.  It was our great grandparents’ work and it will be our great grandchildren’s work. We might never think we’ve made even a dent in all that needs to be done, but that doesn’t mean we should give up and despair or not bother because it’s too overwhelming.  All we can do is work each day with faithfulness and hope and each night say it is enough for one day.
          Everyone is too busy, whether it‘s doing the good work we‘re called to do or busy in the many ways our society tells us we should be busy.  It’s a badge of honour to be so busy. And what about those who due to age or slowed-down abilities or illness can no longer be as busy as they once were. They feel terrible. They feel useless. They no longer feel like they are a contributing member of the community. They feel like a burden.
          I think they’re wrong to feel this way.
          Jean Vanier, the Canadian who founded L’Arche, a worldwide network of communities for mentally disabled people is called a living saint and is a particular mentor of mine. He learned through living with the severely disabled, that they became his teachers rather than the other way around. He used the term, the poor, as Jesus does, to refer to those that society doesn’t see as contributing members. Jean Vanier says it is in the poor that we meet God. Jean Vanier also pointed out more than once that Jesus did not say: ‘Blessed are those who care for the poor’, but ‘Blessed are the poor’.
          You who can no longer do as much as you used to do, are blessed and a blessing. Jesus didn’t find those who weren’t busy contributing members of society a burden. That’s who he hung out with much of the time. And Jesus said that Mary, who was sitting still and listening to him, chose the right thing.
          This leads me to the third way of enough, and that’s being enough. We are enough. Our life is a gift. We don’t have to work to pay it off. We just have to be grateful. Like the poem by Mary Oliver says,
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”

What that means to me is we have to listen to our deepest selves, that tell us what we love, what we are, and what we are called to do. That is the spirit of God working in us. That is our enough.
          Finally, God is enough. We don’t need to worry. That’s why we love the 23rd Psalm. It tells us not to worry, not to fear. It tells us that God is enough. Read the Psalm over again this week and think about enough.
          And what about all the work that needs to be done and somebody has to do it….who’s going to make that nice meal for Jesus if not Martha? What if all the Marthas become Marys. Well, I don’t have the answer for that. But I believe the answer will come.  It will come out of more stillness, more listening and less busyness. And it will be enough.
          Let us pray.
          God, thank you for all that you give us, all that we are, all that you are. Let us know it is enough so we may become instantly generous with whatever we have leftover, that all may have and know enough. In Jesus’ name.

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