Learning to Hovercraft
Learning to Hovercraft is a sermon based on Luke 4:1-13 and it is the second sermon in our series, Drawn In. We’re looking at how to live a creative life with God. That is, how can we unleash the creative potential God put in every one of us so that we may feel a closer connection to God and engage in delightful play and find creative solutions to the situations we encounter every day.
We’re looking at God’s own creative process from the Bible. Author, Rev. Dr. Tony Bronsink identifies the first wave of God’s creative process as dreaming, or imagining. God has a dream for our world and our lives and as we move into better alignment with God’s dreams, we begin to see possibilities to engage purposefully with our own actions and get better lives for it.
The Second Wave: Hovering
In Genesis 1, as God was just getting started in the world, the text says the Spirit of God hovered over the waters when the world was still formless and void. Bronsink says, “Hovering is the creative posture of patience. No sooner had creation begun than the Spirit slowed the process down to what must have felt like a crawl.”
It’s a necessary step. The artist has to ruminate for a bit. The painter asks, “What’s my color palate? The writer asks, “From which point of view will I tell this story?” The sculptor asks, “What’s the best medium to express what’s inside of me.” When you are creating something be it a meal or an email, you are asking yourself questions about what to put in, and what to leave out. That’s the hovering process.
Hurry up and learn patience.
In the creation of our own stories, our path toward a spectacular life, we too need to learn not to rush things, to develop space for hovering, letting things be as we ruminate and discern what to do next.
It’s a lesson I need to remind myself of all the time. My default mode is go go go. Be busy. So I careen around like a pinball going from one thing to the next. My dad used to tell me, “Hurry up and learn patience.”
Big Mistakes Come from Rushing Things.
How many times have you made a big mistake by trying to rush things, force them? I’ve got quite a list.
We are so into productivity that we are inclined to get stuff done just to cross it off our lists. Amazon has one-click shopping where you see something, decide you want it and it already has your info so they just send it to you. But there is a price to pay when we get so addicted to immediacy.
An immediate mindset often sabotages some of the most important stuff in life. As the biblical book, Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything. A time to act, and a time to refrain from acting, to think, ruminate, to vision and dream. Hover.
Take the 30,000-foot view.
Just as the spirit hovered over the waters, so too do good leaders learn to step back and try to get the big picture. Ron Heifetz wrote an influential book on leadership that has a lot of lessons for ordinary life. He says we have to periodically step back and look at the big picture. Like you can see how things flow together. Or, we have to get off the ballroom floor and view the dance from the balcony otherwise we are just so caught up in the hustle and bustle we bump into things and lose sight of the bigger picture of how things flow together. Where attention needs to be paid. What things are really about.
Jesus modeled creative patience.
I think of how Jesus set the model. He waited 30 years before he began his ministry at a time when the life expectancy was in the mid 30’s.
He taught us not to be anxious all the time but to live in an attitude of trust in God. Do not be anxious, he said, consider the birds of the air and the flowers in the fields. The God who takes care of them will take care of us.
After miracles, Jesus often said not to rush out and tell people what they had seen. He was okay with letting things unfold in their own time.
Just like at the beginning of creation, we’re told that during his baptism by John the Baptist that the spirit of God hovered over him. He could do what he did because he was aware of God’s spirit hovering over him, watching out for him, guiding him.
That same spirit hovers over your life. God’s got you. Sees the bigger picture, begs you to stop long enough to trust and look at your own situations in life and ask. What can I do to make a positive difference in the situation I find myself in right now.
Reflecting in the Wilderness.
Right after his baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he was tempted for 40 days and nights. It was a time for him to reflect and clarify what he was about, who he was, and what he could accomplish.
Jesus faced the same temptations that we do. The enemy told him to turn stones into bread. You care about people, feed everyone through a big miracle. Turn stones to bread. Instead of teaching people to share and look out for each other just git’ er done this way. But that would have circumvented the big picture of how we are supposed to learn to care for each other.
Remember I said a couple of weeks ago that you don’t have to have a devil to tempt you. The Greek original says, adversary. the enemy is often the inner-me. The inner me enemy wants you to take shortcuts, to avoid people taking responsibility. Do it for them.
The enemy offered Jesus a shortcut to building his kingdom. “All the kingdoms, I will give you if you worship me.” Bada bing, bada boom. But the kingdom of God isn’t something forced on people, it’s brought about through faith, and choice, and people working together.
The enemy suggested to Jesus the same thing you are offered. Feeling insecure, draw attention to yourself, “Throw yourself down from this pinnacle. Be reckless. God will save you.” But Jesus knew that his purpose, like ours, is for us to live into what God wants us to be instead of seeing God as there to serve us.
That time Jesus had in the wilderness was a time apart for him to reflect and clarify. Hovering. It’s a time of soul searching and unless we learn to do it, we can get caught up in the persistent demands and self-sabotaging shortcuts of our inner me’s.
Make Contemplation Part of Your Regular Practice
The wilderness hovering wasn’t a once and done thing for Jesus. He regularly withdrew to reflect.
Sometimes he would go to villages, heal some people and then leave before everyone could be healed. He knew that if he were to be good for anyone, he needed to leave some things unfinished and be okay with that to withdraw and pray, recharge his batteries, so to speak.
How often do you take that time for contemplation? The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Jesus modeled the same thing years later.
Sabbath rest is woven into creation itself.
This pattern of withdrawing is part of the cycle of creation. God rested on the seventh day and commands us to do the same. Build into your life intentional time for reflection. That is why worship is so wonderful. We can withdraw from the constant pressure to be busy and pray, reflect, readjust.
When I visit my mother, she always has a list of things I can help with while I’m there. Since I’m not a handyman, most of her issues are technical. One time I went and her scanner wasn’t working, her Apple watch quit counting her steps, her computer had some issues, and so on. What was remarkable is I fixed all her problems simply by unplugging them or resetting them. As Anne LaMott says, “Nearly everything works better if you unplug it for a while. Including you.”
It works with people, too. What do you need to unplug from?
Finding the Missing Pieces.
Maybe during the pandemic, you decided to put together a jigsaw puzzle. You start staring at an empty space so long that you go batty, walk away for a while and come back later and boom, the missing piece is right there, obviously. How could you have missed it? Sometimes we need to be okay that it isn’t finished, walk away and come back to it and boom the solution is right there.
I’m so grateful for the church to provide clergy sabbaticals. Unplug for a while, come back, and find see things with a new and fresh perspective. That was the major theme of my time away. And to reflect here at mid-career on what’s working for us as a church, where are pieces that don’t seem to fit together anymore. Where should I focus my attention as pastor and leader for this new time that is unfolding? The time really has re-energized and revitalized my ministry.
Hovering is the creative posture of taking a moment to see the “big picture.” In a world of quick fixes and instant gratification, we sometimes want to skip the step of paying quiet attention to this question: “what one thing do we need to focus on now?”
Goal for the week.
I’d love for you to make it your goal this week to clear the decks in order to give yourself space and time to think, ruminate, to consider what is necessary. The “project” of our lives and work in the world as Christians depends upon this as well. If you didn’t feel that you have to do or fix EVERYTHING, what ONE thing would you work on at this point in your life? What do you feel drawn to?
May this process anchor you, and root you in something exciting and meaningful as you take the next steps in faith. Amen.