Sometimes I feel like that juggler dude who used to be on the Ed Sullivan show back in the sixties. You know the guy I mean? The one who used to spin plates on a stick..? He'd put these dinner plates on the tops of really thin dowels and spin them like Frisbees and they'd keep spinning, except that he'd have to keep running back and forth from plate to plate to keep them all up in the air at the same time. Is your life ever like that?
Summers in a small urban church are pretty sleepy, and there's not always a lot of work for a pastor to do. I visit the homebound, of course, but I don't have to prepare for special services, supervise projects, or do lesson plans for confirmation classes. Even the volume of neighborhood funerals seemed to be slowing down a bit and then...WHAM! Suddenly all the plates start spinning at the same time and I have to keep them all in the air. I'm trying to plan a vacation, but family members start having health problems which need pretty earnest attention. There are doctors' visits to be scheduled and procedures to be undergone and days to be re-arranged. Then a long-time member of the congregation decides it's time to find herself hospitalized in an end-of-life situation, and her family needs the pastor to discuss terminating care. I find myself spending two mornings with the anxious relatives at the local hospital. Now a funeral service must be hastily arranged around medical appointments and vacation time. The bereaved family must be visited, the congregation notified, the homily written, and a worship bulletin prepared. Of course it's at this time that my car needs to go into the shop and the dog needs a trip to the vet. Suddenly it's the congregation's turn to host two displaced families in the church basement in partnership with Interfaith Hospitality Network, and volunteers must be cajoled, schedules made, and re-made, and changed again as three church committees decide they must have meetings which the pastor must attend during the same week while the church newsletter deadline is moved up to accommodate the vacation and the phone begins to ring off the hook as a thousand things suddenly demand all of my attention and my wife wonders why I spend so much time at work.
My brain has been a strangely noisy place lately.
That's why I so love the lessons in the Revised Common Lectionary for Pentecost 9. In the Hebrew scripture lesson from 1 Kings (1Kngs 19:9-18) we find the prophet Elijah living in a cave on Mt. Horeb. He's pissed off with God and Israel and feeling at the end of his rope. He's just defeated 450 prophets of Baal, and it hasn't made a dent in the political situation. He's on the run and in a pretty bad mood. So God tells him to get out of the cave and just wait. Then there's a hurricane. Then an earthquake. Then a forest fire. Then nothing.
And in the nothing, God.
Elijah's just like us. There's chaos and weirdness all around him. But that's not where God is. God is found in the stillness—the stillness that's in the very midst of the hullabaloo.
For someone like me, it's pretty hard to find the stillness, to listen to the sound of the silence, and to remember that it's all about God and not about me. But I think I can do it. I can find Jesus walking in the middle of the swirling tempest, and know that he's come here for me. If I keep my focus on him, I won't sink.
Find some quiet time, my dears. Breath. I assure you, it will all be alright.