A couple of times a month, I offer a service of Holy Eucharist at local assisted living/nursing home facilities for the elderly. Most of the short sermons or homilies that I give in these facilities are variations on one single theme. The sermons that we sometimes hear, that I sometimes preach myself in Church, about “going out into the world and doing God’s holy work” (as important as that may be) have little relevance in these facilities. The residents are not going anywhere. They have lifetimes behind them of doing amazing things, and all of the joy and heartbreak that decades of living bring, and now their days of activity – of doing any kind of “work,” holy or otherwise - are over.
So the sermon I preach is that they are valuable anyways. That they are valuable beings, valuable for just being, that in God’s eyes “being” is just as valuable – actually more valuable – than doing. I remind them that yes, what they CAN still do still matters, even though it may not feel like much. Their prayers matter and are important. Their interactions with the people with whom they have to be in relationship every day – with nurses and aides and neighbors on the hall - matter and are important. But mostly, I remind the folks, they are important just for being. Just for being who they are, now – wrinkles, failing health, grey hair and all. God sees through all that to our inner souls, and what was always true and will always be true about what God sees when God looks at us is this: we are beloved, precious children of God, valued just for our Being.
This is a message we all need to hear. Even those of us who are young-er and able-er. Even those of us who can still do and achieve and accomplish. Because we forget the value of just being, the value of ourselves and other people detached from a list of what we are doing or have done. We live in a society that measures the worth of human beings by what they do and achieve. We live in constant fear of what terrible thing will happen to us if we don’t succeed, if we don’t meet our goals. We live under the threat of being called lazy or worthless or accused of wasting time if we aren’t constantly busy accomplishing things. I once had a conversation with someone who put down another group by saying they were “lazy” and “just content.” The word “content” was spoken in a tone of voice that dripped with judgment and disdain. I was taken aback by this conflation of laziness and contentment. Especially since what I see and experience most of the time is the soul-killing combination of “busy” and “discontent.”
Because of the distorted way that we value doing, we don’t know how to value being, how to be, how to be content with ourselves (and others) in the presence of God if we are not working on some task. One of the most important things we can “do” for our spiritual lives is nurture our sense of the value of being, not doing. The invitation for us all is to be at peace and content with God without feeling like we have to be achieving and accomplishing something. Be – just Be – in the loving presence of God, our Creator.