SIMPLIFY: MAKING ROOM FOR GOD – FRUIT FROM THE TRUE VINE – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
We can sometimes feel a sense of compulsion to participate in something out of fear that we will miss something important. In our current cultural climate, we are told both in work and in play, that collecting experiences is what makes life meaningful. We are instructed to seek out employment, relationships, and hobbies that are inspiring and authentic, that connect with who we are and instill our lives with joy and meaning. But what happens when we are unable to achieve this sense of meaning in the day-to-day motions of our lives? What happens when in spite of all our striving, we are unable to find that sense of fulfillment in the things that we do?
So many of us are sick, unemployed, retired, underemployed, or bored of our jobs. So many of us, whether we are too busy or too bored, are lonely and sick with longing for a life of meaning and substance. A life we fool ourselves into believing that everyone else around us has. And so our tendency is to try to tinker endlessly with the shape of our days, adding and subtracting to try to find the optimal arrangement. But the problem is, we keep missing the point. Trying to fix it all ourselves is just another symptom of the problem.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.
It sounds so easy, but it is incredibly difficult. Even as disciples, we are always trying to retake control of our own lives. But it is a simple statement of fact. When we are detached from Jesus, when we try to live from our own strength, our own resources, we wither and fail. Abide in my love. God’s answer to our stubborn insistence on proving ourselves, our attempts to live from our own resources and abilities is extravagant, unconditional love. And we are invited to make our home in this love. Abide. Dwell. Stay firmly present.
We can trust that if we make our homes with God, that we don’t need to worry and obsess about our own thriving and our own productivity. If we make our home with Christ, we do not need to create our own meaningfulness. If we are truly abiding in God’s love, we will grow in love for others, and conversely, if we love others, it will lead us back to our home in God’s love. There is a cycle here. What we believe expresses itself in what we do, and in turn what we do shapes what we believe. Our actions are important, and they bear witness to the content of our hearts. But we are not left to make our lives, our schedules, or our use of time meaningful. We are simply asked to make our home in Christ, and trust that fruit will follow.
SEEKING MEANING IN OUR DAILY LIVES
This week, through our practical tip, we try to follow the advice of a seventeenth century monk named Brother Lawrence. This was a man who is known to have been able to find God in the midst of the ordinariness of everyday life. Brother Lawrence simply developed the habit of remembering God frequently throughout the day, regardless of what he was doing. (He is particularly famous for connecting with God while washing dishes.) Brother Lawrence invited God to join him in his tasks and duties. This also enabled him to sense God’s leadings for him in these tasks and the rest of his life.
I invite you to remember God maybe three or four times each day while you are doing what otherwise would appear to be a normal, mundane task. You don’t even have to stop doing the task, though initially this may be necessary to move your focus to God. Needless to say, you might not want to start this habit while driving or operating heavy equipment. But learning to invite God into your life in the midst of activity has greater benefit, especially for those of us with particularly active lives. For those of us with time on our hands, we can even invite God into our frustrations and boredom.
So when you are doing something and remember to become more aware of God, while continuing to perform the activity, invite God into what you are doing. Maybe imagine God being at your side, joining with you in your task. Do you have anything to be grateful for? Tell Him. Do you have anything to complain about? Tell Him. Are you lonely, over worked, frustrated, etc.? Tell Him. Is there anything you would like from God while you are performing this task? Ask Him. Try not to make it a monologue, though. Take some time to sense what God might be saying to you in response to your side of the conversation or simply to be more aware of how God might be during this active time together. In particular, try to be aware that God is present with you at this moment and in this task, that He loves you and is always reaching out to you.
When your task is done, you might take a minute or two and recall the prayer experience and jot down anything which you thought was significant.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.