Ray Cuthbert 14 June 2020
Let us pray: O God, let something essential happen to us, something more than interesting or entertaining or thoughtful. O God let something essential happen to us, something awesome, something real. Amen.
A little boy was attending his first wedding. After the service, his cousin asked him, “So now that you’ve been to a wedding can you tell me, how many people can one person marry?” The little boy thought for a moment and replied to his older cousin, “Sixteen.” “Sixteen?” “Sure, just add up what the minister said: 4 better; 4 worse; 4 richer; 4 poorer. Sixteen!”
Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds kind of daunting to me. It’s hard enough relating in a totally loving way to one person, let alone sixteen. This story came to mind, though, when I was thinking about our Gospel lesson for today in which Jesus is naming 12 disciples.
We are besieged all the time by requests for charitable donations. There is a temptation to react like Jerry Seinfeld did on one episode of his television series.
Jerry’s telephone rings. He picks it up and it’s a telemarketer.
Jerry finally says, “Look, I’m really busy right now, but I tell you what – you give me your name and home telephone number and when I’m ready, I’ll give you a call at home… What’s that? You say you can’t give me your home phone number because your company has a policy of not infringing on your privacy in your own home? Well, now you know how I feel.” And Jerry hangs up.
We all know what it’s like to have requests for our finances coming from all directions. Even with the charities that we think are important, we have a tendency to feel like we’re the little boy with his finger in the dyke. If we say yes to one, then the onslaught will be terrible.
It seems like there’s always one more thing that calls on our attention. If it’s not our money that’s wanted, then it’s our time!
Over these past weeks and months we have been overwhelmed by the Covid19 pandemic. In recent weeks we have had ladled on top of that the awful civil unrest happening in the country directly to the south of us.
We wonder what we can do, and the temptation is to say, “nothing.” There is nothing we can do.
It can be truly overwhelming!
What can we do when we’re faced with a million things that all need doing? What can we do when there are sixteen different things calling out to us – even if they aren’t 4 better; 4 worse; 4 richer; and 4 poorer?
There is something that I’ve learned, sort of, in all the years I’ve was doing ministry. Sometimes ministry goes at a quiet and easy pace, but many times things start crashing in and seem to demand my attention all at once. They are like Covid19 and civil unrest.
What can we do about all the requests we get for our attention?
Here’s my answer… Get ready for it…
We can do nothing.
Now, before you think my solution is exactly what I described a moment ago as a temptation – to just give up, but wait. Think again at the question I am putting before you. What exactly is the question? What can we do about all the requests we get for our attention?
What can we do about all the requests we get for our attention? How will God restore us?
If we try and do everything, all at once the demand upon us is impossible to overcome.
It is important for us, when we are overwhelmed, to take a little time and try to sort out which of the many things we have been asked to do are the most urgent. When I do that, then I can start.
I consciously start with one thing.
I cannot possibly do everything, but I know that I can do one thing, and so I do that one thing.
Once that first thing is finished, I start on a second thing, but I consciously tell myself that I am doing one thing. Once I finish the second thing, I move on to the third thing, which again, I consciously tell myself I am doing one thing. And so it goes.
The “everything must be done” mentality has to be conquered before we can accomplish anything! One by one, the pile of everything can be diminished, but if we look at the pile – even if it is a pile only in our own minds – we’ll never be able to do any of it!
To sum up, my plan of action when faced with overwhelming demands is this:
Give up on doing everything and do one thing.
If we do that our whirlwinds of everything becomes a series of successes or failures at doing just one thing at a time.
I doubt that Jesus ever heard of the term “crisis management.” Jesus, without knowing the theory, gave us the instruction we need on how to deal with the complexity of life.
Why did Jesus name twelve disciples to help in ministry? Jesus did this because there was absolutely no way that any one person can meet all of the requests set before the people of faith.
What the defeated person does with a mountain of requests is to throw up their hands and do nothing. What an empowered person does with a mountain of complex requests is to give up on doing them all at once, and start small – with one thing.
If even Jesus needed 12 disciples, then we should not be ashamed when we need help to continue doing the right thing. That needing help to do the right thing is why there is such a thing as church – a place where people can work together for good and be supported when we fail and encouraged with the hope that one day we will succeed.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
Do You know what a disciple is? A disciple is someone who is a student. Jesus had 12 disciples – 12 students, who traveled with him and tried to learn from his way of life. That is what Jesus asks of us today – learn from Christ by doing one thing and doing it well. Get satisfaction from doing one thing, and then you have the personal resources to take on the second thing.
Do you remember the story I mentioned earlier about the boy with his finger in the dyke? If we are afraid that if we say yes to one thing, we will be letting in the torrent of requests of everyone in need. The story of the boy putting his finger in the dyke, though, is actually a story of a dyke that kept the town from flooding, but had developed a little hole. People were running away from the dyke because they knew that where one little hole appeared, soon the hole would enlarge and the sea would be let in.
One little boy, though, did not run away. Instead of running, he put his finger in the dyke.
That simple action stopped the water running through the hole.
That simple action slowed down the erosion that would have widened the hole. His simple action gave the town time enough to the rest of the people to repair the hole in the dyke.
It is not our job to take care of the flood of all that threatens the world. It is our job to put our finger in the dyke! It is easy to say that anyone can put their finger in the dyke. It’s easy and it’s true. Anyone can do it. The question is, are we that anyone?
Have you heard the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody?
A job had to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got mad about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it and that Somebody would do it.
Nobody realized that Everybody thought Somebody would do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done. The real question for today is, “Are we Anybody?”
With God’s help, we can be the Anybody that God wants us to be!
So how does God restore us?
God restores us by allowing us to remember that God loves us and that God will make sure that we can take care of things by taking them on one step at a time.
We all know the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer has his disciples to ask “Give us this day our daily bread…” Daily bread! Not enough to last for a year or ten years, or through retirement. Not enough to even last for a week! Jesus suggested that we ask God for our daily bread.
One day at a time is how we restore God’s priorities in our lives. Give us this day our daily bread… As we receive our daily bread today, let us thank God, and let tomorrow take care of itself.
- Raymond A. Cuthbert