It’s a busy week for me. 2 weddings. 2 sort of complicated meetings. 2 pastoral calls in the suburbs. 2 long, full days of Conference Annual Meeting out in West Chester. 2 doctor’s appointments and, unexpectedly, 2 more appointments for tests. …One of those weeks so busy that I can’t quite figure out how I’ll get it all done? And that leaves me feeling a little panicky.
You all know what these weeks are like too.
It occurred to me to ask myself a question I often ask others, “Where do you think Jesus is in all of this?”
It’s a good question. It works in almost all situations. In fact, where it is most difficult to answer, it is most poignant. Because God has promised to be with us, and where we aren’t sure how God is with us is often by definition where we need God most.
…When we are feeling all alone — separated from those who are dear to you, or facing a difficult financial or health situation, or despairing some deadened you are fearing for yourself or people or a community that is important to you.
…Or even just when you are feeling overwhelmed with what you have to do and dreading not having time to get it all done, much less done well.
I’m pretty confident that such situations are not unfamiliar to Jesus. In part because they are so much a part of our modern life. And he knows our days and nights, our triumphs and struggles. Maybe too much to do in too little time is a part of human life — existentially — from the beginning? (Could such an existential predicament have a theological source?)
He must have known such situations from his own life too. Think also about Jesus’ ministry career (because we don’t know of any career prior!): all that he accomplished was done in 3 short years. And, in how many Gospel stories is the crowd pushing in on him or the disciples dogging him? And in his warnings — like the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Maidens or the story of the woman with the perfume for his feet — there is a sense of urgency. He only has so much time, and “his people” also only have him for some time. “No one knows the time or the hour,” to be sure, but somehow he was also clear in telling that his followers that his time was drawing nigh!
I trust Jesus knows wanting to get further than he did (on foot no less).
I can imagine him wishing for more time and influence with the people he encountered… and more people he could meet and engage, help and serve.
Often in the Gospel stories, people seem genuinely touched and transformed by Jesus… And then they wander off as if that holy encounter had never happened. Don’t you think he ever worried that if only he had something else, something more, his influence might have had more hold and reach?
“Everything’s Alright” from Jesus Christ Superstar always left me with a sense that he could get distracted by all there was to do.
Trusting Jesus knows the frustrations and concerns of too much to do and not enough time, and asking myself where Jesus is in my experience this week, I take 4 lessons from his ministry:
Jesus organized others from almost the beginning of his ministry. It’s clear that his disciples were not just to be students but also to be servants with him in the Kingdom he spoke of. But Jesus didn’t find experts to “people his (volunteer) staff.” He took on newbies and took responsibility for training, empowering and sending them off in service.
And, if the stories in the Gospels are right, he ended up with more headaches and more to do because of them!
But he wasn’t dissuaded from sharing the wealth of the work to be done even further. Instead of keeping it tight, Jesus kept teaching his followers to give it away. And that they were to live like him.
Maybe that’s how he was able to make his own peace with not getting it all done — he needed work for others to do? He left it to Peter and Paul to found the church and create thousands of jobs and ministries for all the Christians to come to do. Jesus did what he did, and then he left the rest of the work to be done to the whole church. He even said that those who came after him would do even greater things than he did.
Finally, while Jesus may have felt the burdens and the crosses he was to bear, he never seemed to forget that those others we coming after him to continue the work. He was sort of “zen” about what he didn’t get done.
Maybe that’s why he hasn’t seemed to be in much of a rush to hurry back. Because there’s more yet to be done. More we have to do. But if not us, then those who follow us (and him!). Jesus doesn’t seem worried about how far along we are? Or he understands that it takes more time than we have yet put in yet?
Ok, so Jesus is telling me:
“You can’t get it all done. You are not supposed to. Ask for help. Leave work for others. They won’t finish it all either. I didn’t even.
Let go. Do what you can. Don’t forget to keep Sabbath. And work while it is day and for the time in God’s wisdom you are given. But by and by, none of us can do it alone. Not even me. And that’s fine. In fact, that’s how it is to be.”
I hope you can hear that too.
See you in church,