A Sermon by Louise Westfall
Fairmount Presbyterian Church
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
18 July 2010
Text:  Ephesians 3:14-21
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I have been delighted and intrigued by the topics you suggested for this Summer’s “You Asked for It” sermon series.  Except this one.  As soon as I saw it, I tried subtly and then desperately to get one of my colleagues to take it.  But no.  They chose other ones.  So every time I opened my sermon file, there it was, taunting me.  Betcha won’t!  Betcha can’t!    This request reveals one of my most difficult spiritual struggles, and one, quite frankly, I’m a long way from mastering:  the question of balance.  How do you make a successful life?  One that is rich and full, and integrates work and play, relationships and learning, faith and fun and service?  How can you balance your calling with life’s other demands and needs. . . . and how can you help others do so?    One person put these questions down on paper, but many, many more of you have voiced some variation of them, and so have I. 

Workaholism is epidemic among employed people, those whose work focuses on the home and family, and those who volunteer.  Our society rewards workaholism as a virtue, and if you love your work, this becomes all the more enticing. 

Problem is, workaholism does violence to the workaholic and to her relationships, and to the wider community. It constricts the spirit, it strains our most intimate relationships, and it contributes toward a society that is tense and driven, competitive and self-involved.   Workaholism is as much a spiritual matter as it is a personal or family one.   St. Francis of Assisi noted  “we were made for you O God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”

Our lives are full of competing urgencies, and most of the choices we have to make are not obviously between good and evil, but between one good and another good.  How do we “make a life” that is fulfilling and purposive, that will bring personal joy and a positive difference in the world?    Recently I have started working out with a personal trainer.  My doctor suggested adding weights to my fitness routine, and I thought working with a professional would give me a jumpstart. 

Well yes.    She had a lot of suggestions, and I realized (once again) that as natural as body health is, it requires a certain discipline to achieve it and maintain it.  There are many parallels between physical health and spiritual health.  So consider the following as suggestions toward balance.  I offer them for you. . . .  and for me:

1)  Commit to making God the center of your life.  Seek God’s guidance in choices and decisions,, be aware of God’s presence in the everyday, and adopt an attitude of gratitude, and a willingness to be open.  If you get this priority right, others are more likely to find their right place (child’s donut stacker)  An every day commitment!

2)  Honor relational commitments.  We are part of a web, a network of relationships and our individual actions affect the web.  Take into account these relationships, discuss priorities with family members.  Bear burdens, share joys.   Schedule time if you need to (Couples “date nights”/one family with young children in our church told me they hold Friday sacred for dinner together and “game night”)

3)  Do a lifestyle assessment.  Log your activities for one week, and note how you actually spend your time.  Are you happy with this?  Do your activities match your priorities and values? 

(use example working with a personal trainer, developing a work-out routine of food diary where you have to record everything you eat  to get an idea of your actual nutritional habits.  It can also become an accountability thing!)

4)  Practice sabbath   a 24-hour period (maybe but not necessarily Sunday) in which you get out of the routine, rest in the love of God, get off the treadmill and engage in rituals and practices that are renewing and refreshing.  (worship, observant Jews recommend lovemaking! Alone time, doing something you love, being outdoors, etc.)  This is not the same as vacation because sabbath is to be practiced within a regular routine, not a special or extraordinary thing. 

5)  Breathe!    That’s right, breathe!  Live mindfully, aware of intaken breath and outward exhalation.  Becoming aware of one’s breathing is a great way to reduce anxiety and fear; the whole thing about counting to ten before you speak? Breathing calms you down!  Breathing is one way our body renews itself.  A spiritual teacher I heard once suggested that the Hebrew word for God —-Yahweh—-actually mirrors breathing.

Yahhhhhh  on the intake. . . .Wehhhhhh as you exhale.  Do it with me   Yahhhhhh. . . wehhhhhhhhh.  Yahhhhhh. . . .wehhhh. 

Whew!  That’s a lot, and we haven’t even gotten to the Scripture reading yet~!   But I saved it for last, because today, it offers us a way, pure and simple, to seek the righteous balance of abundant life.   Friends, hold on to the promise of God that in seeking again and again and again, we will find it.  Hear the good news in the reading from the letter to the Ephesian churches, in the third chapter at the 14th verse.

{Ephesians 3:14-21}