“He would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).
An intensive manhunt is underway at this hour for the man who set off smoke grenades and fired a handgun on a crowded Brooklyn subway train yesterday morning. Ten people were hit by gunfire, making the shooting the worst in the history of the New York City subway. Another thirteen people suffered injuries related to the attack.
In other New York news, Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, the No. 2 official to Gov. Kathy Hochul, resigned yesterday after he was arrested in a federal corruption investigation. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid a fine for breaking lockdown rules at Downing Street, making him the first holder of his office in living memory to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.
An Olympian’s mother was killed by a stray bullet while sewing in her Connecticut home. A youth minister in the Dallas area was arrested after multiple child sexual assault allegations. Inflation has risen to the highest level since 1981 as economists warn about a possible recession by the end of the year. Sexually transmitted infections in the US surged to a record high in 2020. All this as Vladimir Putin vows to continue Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine.
In the midst of such challenging times, this story could be a cultural parable: an enormous container ship has been stuck in the Chesapeake Bay for more than a month. After other attempts to free the ship proved unsuccessful, the next course of action will be to remove cargo containers from the boat to lighten it.
If we cannot change the world, we can change the way we respond to it.
“The great enemy of spiritual life”
This day in Holy Week is sometimes called “Silent Wednesday” since the Gospels do not record any activities by our Lord on this day. So far as we know, Jesus spent the day in Bethany at the home of his dear friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, preparing for the monumental events to come.
Do you and I need to follow his example?
I just read John Mark Comer’s marvelous book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and recommend it most highly. This very transparent (and humorous) pastor tells his story of learning to imitate Jesus’ approach to time and the challenges of life. Early in the book, he quotes noted philosopher Dallas Willard: “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Comer notes that for much of history, life was experienced within the rhythms of nature, sleeping at night and working during the day. Then, in 1370, the first public clock tower was erected in Cologne, Germany, creating “artificial time.” As a result, Comer writes, “We stopped listening to our bodies and started rising when our alarms droned their oppressive siren—not when our bodies were done resting. We became more efficient, yes, but also more machine, less human being.”
Then, in 1879, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, making it possible for people to stay up past sunset. Remarkably, as Comer notes, the average person previously slept for eleven hours a night. Now we’re down to about seven. Technology has further hurried our lives as we can work more hours in more ways so that the average American works nearly four more weeks per year than they did in 1979.
With the iPhone and the advent of the digital age in 2007, our lives became even more hurried and crowded. Now technology companies exploit the dopamine rush that results from “likes” and “shares” on social media and constant interaction with the culture, causing many of us to be actually addicted to our devices and the engaging experiences they provide.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”
By contrast, Comer notes that Jesus lived by the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and “slowing,” which John Ortberg defines as “cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.” In response, Comer says he has reorganized his life around three simple goals:
- Slow down.
- Simplify my life around the practices of Jesus.
- Live from a center of abiding in Christ.
He quotes Frank Laubach’s beautiful observation, “Every now is an eternity if it is full of God.” And he has made Paul’s assertion his personal manifesto: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11 NIV). As he notes, “ambition” and “quiet” sound more like enemies than friends, when the first actually amplifies the significance of the second.
Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, offered similar advice: “Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet.”
“Worshiping the Lord and fasting”
The church at Antioch changed the world by modeling today’s topic. When “they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,” the Holy Spirit instructed them to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Then, “after fasting and praying” once again, “they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (v. 3). And the world has never been the same.
On this Silent Wednesday, Jesus “fasted” from the world and prayed.
How will you follow his example today?