Are You Too Busy For God? - Twelfth Sunday of Luke

It’s very easy to be passive-aggressive in our relationships. I don’t mean that it’s enjoyable or even that its useful, but it’s a very easy way to handle emotional stress.

But the funny thing about passive aggression is that while it is very hurtful to the recipient, it is often more damaging for the passive aggressor.

I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s something that I have struggled with.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly selfish and don’t feel like sharing a meal with my wife, I may dig my heels in and refuse to say what I want to eat, hoping that she’ll just give up and say, “Why don’t we each get our own food?”

Other times, rather than be vulnerable and tell a friend that I’m really disappointed I haven’t received a call back in months, I may stop calling myself, thinking, “Now he’ll see how it feels.”

Of course, it would be spiritually healthier to identify my own selfishness and not take it out on my wife, or not be so hard on friend and understand why he doesn’t call rather than simply label him a jerk. But I often don’t.

Whatever the case may be for my passive-aggression it is ridiculous because, though I am lashing out at others, I am simply hurting myself.

I’m excluding myself from an honest and real relationship with others.

Looking at this week’s Gospel reading, I began wondering: do I do the same thing with God?

Do I exclude myself from relationship with Him?

Last week, we explored how gracious Christ is to come to us and minister to us in deeply human, accessible ways [link]. This week, I realize that He not only comes to reach out to us, but that He also invites us to come to Him on His terms. I don’t mean that in a stubborn sense: I mean that He doesn’t simply meet us in our humanity, but that He also invites us to meet Him in His divinity, to know Him in His Kingdom.

Yet it seems that we exclude ourselves from an honest and real relationship with Him.

Christ tells a parable this Sunday about a King who is throwing a wedding banquet for his son. The King struggles to find people to attend the banquet, however, as almost everyone has plenty of excuses; they are preoccupied with themselves.

I just bought a field.

I just bought some oxen.

I just got married.

These are the things that keep people from the banquet of the King: their stuff, their work, and their idolatry of others.

But the King continues to invite people – all the people – telling his servants:

‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.' And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.' And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.’ [citation]

It could be easy to see the King’s words as harsh and punishing: “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” We may see them as words that are unto the condemnation of those who are not at the party. But the reality is that they were invited and refused to come.

The King excludes nobody; they exclude themselves.

Our King, as Christ showed us last week with His unconditional acceptance and love [link], is a gracious One, and He invites all of us to be with Him, to taste of His banquet, to sit with Him in His Kingdom.

The most obvious expression of this is in the Divine Liturgy, when we literally taste of the Heavenly Banquet, receiving Christ’s very Body and Blood as real Food and Drink. But this experience of Christ, this experience of the Kingdom that we taste on Sundays, is meant to be carried with us everywhere we go, to be shared with the world. The invitation is to be given to all, even to those at the “highways and hedges.”

Our King invites us to be in His Kingdom always, to let love for Him and love for our neighbor reign in our hearts, but the reality is, we are too busy being preoccupied with ourselves – with our stuff, our jobs, our disordered love of others – to notice the invitation and live this love.

On a daily basis, we fail to show compassion for others because we are too busy to stop.

This TED Radio Hour on Compassion presents the findings from a study at Princeton Theological Seminary. In it, future pastors (pastors) were tasked with preparing a sermon and then delivering it in a different building on campus. Some were given the parable of the Good Samaritan; others were given a random passage.

As each seminarian walked to present the sermon, they each passed someone laying on the ground, clearly in need of help. Now you might think that those who had studied the Good Samaritan would stop and help more frequently than those who had written on something else. But they didn’t. They walked by just as frequently as those who had studied a different passage.

The difference in those who stopped versus those who didn’t: how late or early they were to give their sermons.

Those who needed to rush to deliver the sermon were focused on this task, and how late they were. Those who had time were more likely to see the person in need, and actually help.

It wasn’t what they knew (all the seminarian knew they should help the person in need); it was what they were focused on.

In this case, they were focused on themselves, their own ideas, their own work, to the point that they excluded themselves from a relationship with another who needed them, and thus they excluded themselves from a relationship with God (Matt. 25).

We are distracted by ourselves, our wants, our stuff. We are distracted with our own thoughts, preoccupied with what we think we need to do.

But this Sunday, and every Sunday, the Lord extends an invitation to us, inviting us to “lay aside all earthly cares,” and to stop excluding ourselves from the one thing needful: our relationship with Him.

Photo Credit:

To-Do List: Majiscup - The Papercup & Sleeve via Compfight cc

Communion: spbda via Compfight cc

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.