Sermon for the 7th Sunday after Trinity: ‘Be still and know that I am God’: preached at the Eucharist, Sherborne Abbey, on Sunday, 18 July 2021 by The Reverend Robert Green. (Ephesians 2: 11 – 22; Mark 6: 30 – 34, 53 – 56)
There is an old adage which says: ‘If you are too busy to pray, then you are too busy’.
Even with the lockdowns over these last 18 months, although initially there was some space; there was less traffic on the roads, the sky was clear without aircraft, and we began to be more aware of birdsong, but the pace of life soon resumed. Our means of communication these days are virtually immediate, and for some, working at home has meant working many more hours sitting in front of a screen. My son-in -law has been working from home, and has taken to going on cycle rides to get some exercise. Despite the lockdowns, and less opportunity for ‘retail therapy’, the advertising industry has been just as busy encouraging us to part with our money to choose this, buy that, look like them, and I have noticed that there have been many more advertisements encouraging gambling, despite a very brief note of warning which you have hardly time to read. Newspapers and magazines and social media so often distort the truth, that we believe their lies. Integrity and morality seem to be at a premium, and trust is severely undermined. Against all this we need our spiritual batteries to be well charged. Without these spiritual resources we are indeed like sheep without a shepherd.
That was what Jesus found as he began to teach the people, and by this time crowds began to gather wherever he was. But on this particular occasion he needed space to be with the 12 disciples who had just returned from missionary journeys, and were full of stories of all that had happened. You can imagine how they were bursting to tell Jesus all about their experiences, however the crowds saw them leaving in a boat, and followed them on shore, and were waiting for them when they landed.
Jesus had compassion on them, and began to teach them many things. He did not send them away, even though it was getting late.
Jesus saw lost and struggling lives with need for reassurance, longing for healing and wholeness, and the hearts attracted to God, but needing help to find Him. From stories like this of Jesus’ ministry we know with certainty that God never turns any of us away. None of our needs or wounds or sorrows are hidden from him.
In these troubled times, more than ever, we need to hear this, and it may be necessary to find some space to be still with God that he may speak to us in the silence, words of reassurance and healing. It is like the rhythm of sleep and work. We cannot work unless we have our time of rest; and sleep will not come until we are tired. If we are too active we risk undermining our health because we are not getting a proper time of rest. The Christian Life is no different. Not allowing times of stillness means that there is no opportunity for God to speak to us, because we do not know how to be still and listen. The Psalmist thousands of years ago wrote: ‘Be still and know that I am God’. Unless we have some space, we give God no opportunity to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. How can we shoulder life’s burdens if we have no contact with Him? It is at critical moments in our lives that we may need to draw on our spiritual resources to see us through. If the battery is flat, it is very difficult to cope on our own. Someone has said that prayer gives us spiritual muscle. So, whatever our age, we need to make sure our spiritual batteries are well charged.
How do we do this? Firstly, as individuals in our own spiritual discipline, for God called us individually to have a personal relationship with Him, and we can develop that relationship over time. As it is a personal relationship, its form may vary considerably in terms of the type of prayer, scripture reading, and the use of silence. It is a two- way relationship; we need space for God to speak to us.
Secondly, we develop our spiritual relationship corporately as we gather here week by week. Having as individuals been in God’s presence daily, so we have more to give in our corporate worship, and be more open to receive. We come as members of the Body of Christ to share and encourage one another as we worship together, and be open to receive through Word and Sacrament all that God wants to give. Let us this morning open our hearts to receive from our loving heavenly Father.