It’s summertime.  For many of us, this is a time for vacation and renewal.  This may not be true if we make our living in agriculture or in tourism.  But I think it’s true for many of us.  And it’s probably true for our congregations.  Our “program” year often starts in September and ends in May.

I read some time ago that Americans, on average, sleep an hour less each weeknight than experts recommend, and half an hour less on weekends.  By the end of the year, we are short two full weeks of rest.  (And how can you tell if you are sleep deprived?  They say that if you need to use an alarm clock to wake up on time, you are!)  Americans spend more time at work than any other industrialized nation and have less vacation time too.  I’m told that the vacation times we give most workers in this country are illegal in Europe!

There’s an image in T S Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the first of his “Four Quartets,” that sticks in my mind.  Down in the half-light of the London Underground, people are running busily to and from work.  And he talks about them being like stray scraps of paper, blowing in the wind.  As I read it, the people are being blown aimlessly in the winds of time, fluttering without purpose wherever they are carried.

Edwina Gately, the lay founder of a missionary order that works with prostitutes and street people in Chicago, says that “there is a seed of God in each one of us that needs tending to grow.”  There is a seed of God in each one of us that needs tending to grow.  Without that time, the power of God-in-us for joyful life, and for sustained action in a hurting world, becomes stunted.  Exhausted people, she says, “grow a little god.” That’s “god,” by the way, with an uncapitalized “g”.

There is a balance that needs to be struck.  But I think our lives are out of balance today.  Even our leisure is often just another distraction, another thing to do …

Half the population of this country now says that they have too little time for their families.  More than half of all working women report that they are so busy, when they get home, trying to compensate for being away at work, that they have no time for themselves.  Two-earner couples have less time together, and researchers have found that this reduces the happiness and satisfaction of a marriage.  Time is a runaway train rushing us past the places where we really live.

We need to find a way to step off the train, if I can run with Eliot’s image of the London Underground, and smell the roses.  That is the needful thing.  But every time we do, doesn’t it seem like someone is there, trying to take this away from us and drag us back on the train?  Or maybe we feel guilty, and rush back on board ourselves?

I once lived in a house with a woman who couldn’t sit still.  She studied at the counter, standing up, making and drinking tea, talking to others in the room, running projects on the side.  She literally couldn’t sit still for more than about a minute without starting to go crazy.  She was always busy doing something, usually two or three things at once.

She actually was hyperactive, so maybe she’s a poor example.  But a number of authors on the spiritual life see “busyness” as the besetting sin of our age  — and I believe it.  The things we do have taken control of our lives.  They have taken on a life of their own, and we scramble to keep up with them.  And we find that we simply do not have time.  We lack time for our families.  Or we are so caught up in getting family members to activities that we don’t have time to be a family together.  We lack time for our hobbies.  We lack time to pray.  We lack time to spend with God

We need time to sit, and listen, and to be re-created.  We need time to daydream.  We need time to play.  But we must make the time to do this.  And we must use this time in a way that actually renews us.  We must not spend this time in just another kind of “busyness” that isolates us from our God and from each other.

We are so busy that I suspect this seems impossible.  But it is this very busyness that makes this essential.  In this morning’s gospel, Jesus was trying to make just this type of time for his followers.  He got sidetracked.  Even Jesus had problems doing this.  But it was a temporary problem.  We know he took time for himself and his followers to be refreshed and renewed.  They couldn’t have done what they did otherwise.

We also need to be refreshed and renewed to do what actually needs doing well.  We need to be refreshed and renewed to experience the joy and fulfillment that is God’s wish for us.

Our God thought this was so important for us – for our wellbeing — that he made it a commandment.  Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.  Perhaps we cannot take a whole day all at   once.  But our God commands us to take time for this kind of refreshment and renewal – to intentionally build this into our lives.  We need to do this, not for God’s sake, but for our own spiritual wellbeing and happiness.

I say this to you in the Name of God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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