It is Paul, the great writer that he is, who, along with one of his missionary companions – not Silas, not Barnabas, but Garfunkel – writes:
“Slow down, you move too fast;
You got to make the morning last;
Just kicking down the cobblestones,
looking for fun and feeling groovy.”
Sacred music scholars will recognize these are lyrics from “The 59th Street Bridge Song” by Simon and Garfunkel.
And what sacred words these are! Slow down! We move too fast!
I have a “mindfulness” app on my phone. Twice a day – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – the app chimes like a gong. A reminder note pops up offering me a minute, or three minutes, or fifteen minutes, to pause; to walk away from the computers and the news and the music and the people and the thoughts and the demands and the noise. Twice a day I get interrupted and reminded to breathe deeply. Just breathe, deep, the breath of God.
The Trappist monk Thomas Merton says that church bells ring (like the chime on my phone), interrupting our busy-ness, and reminding us that God alone is good, that we belong to God, that we are not living for this world. He says the chimes and ringing disrupt our worries in order to remind us that all things pass away, and that our preoccupations are not as important as we think they are. They remind us that we are free – good news when we feel enslaved to the demands and expectations of others. We belong to God, not to the principalities and powers of this world!
And so, twice a day, my phone chimes at me to remind me to be still, and to know that God is God, and the world is not. To be still and know that God is God and that I am not. To be still ... and to know … that I am God's beloved child, despite all the voices telling me otherwise.
And twice a day the chime interrupts my busy-ness, and far more often than not, I silence the chime and just keep on working.
We're busy people. We have far more to do than ever before, and even far less time to do it. We are lured into worship at the unforgiving altar of busy-ness.
It's hard to be still and be quiet.
The roar of the machines, the cars, the trucks, the motorcycles, the airplanes, the mowers and blowers, the air conditioners, the stereo in the vehicle two cars over, the dull humming of the artificial lights … the noise never pauses for us.
The ever-increasing glow of our TV screens, our computer monitors, our cell phones, the billboards outside our windows, the street lights, our church signs …
the constant breaking news of every second of every minute of every hour of every day …
the Twitter feeds, the Facebook posts, the text messages, the never-ending music and sports and comedy shows and dramas and talk shows and talent shows …
everything keeps multiplying faster and faster, and it keeps getting louder and louder.
It's like we are software from the early 1990s trying to keep up with the newest and fastest computers. We still get jammed up just by trying to run two programs at the same time. We keep trying to go on with more and more programs opening up. Multi-tasking is the latest god to have seduced us. We add more and more until we freeze – mentally, and sometimes physically. Our minds, our bodies, our souls, give out.
Anne Lamott says that almost everything will work again if we unplug it for a few minutes, including us.
Jesus chose to regularly unplug. He didn't even live when plugging in was a real thing. Jesus didn't live with all the technical demands on every moment of every second that we do today – the gadgets that make us accessible to everyone, all the time.
Jesus stopped. Often. Repeatedly.
Jesus withdrew. Alone. To be silent. To be still. And to rest in the Presence of God.
The Gospel of Christ, the Good News of our Lord Jesus, is the call to slow down. And then keep slowing down. Then come to a complete stop.
Holy invitations to be still and silent. Holy opportunities to rest. Holy reminders that we are deeply, truly loved by God. We are loved not for what we do or how much we can produce or how many things we can cram into our over-stuffed calendar, but because we are God's children in whom God delights.
May we heed the call of Simon and Garfunkel to slow down, because we move too fast. May we practice the call of Psalm 46:10 (my paraphrase): Be still, and know, that God is God, and that you, I, and all the demands of others, are not.
Slow down. We move too fast. Let it be so.