Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

Moments in a Monastery – Part 5

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TERCE

At 7:30 am the monks have a plain breakfast and then tend to their different morning chores until the bell tolls for Terce at 9am. Terce bears a close relationship to Sext and None, collectively known as the little hours which punctuate the day between the hinge hours of Lauds at sunrise and Vespers at sunset. The origin of Terce dates back to Apostolic times where according to an ancient custom of the Romans and Greeks, the day and night respectively were divided into four parts of about three hours each. The second division of the day contained the hours from about the modern nine o’clock until about midday; using the Roman numbering the hour just preceding this division was called hora tertia, the third hour, from which the word terce is derived. In the New Testament we find mention of the sixth hour in Matthew 20:5; Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; John 19:14; of the ninth hour, in Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:25; the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost at the third hour, Acts 2:15. As you look at these texts it seems that these three hours may appear in preference to others as those chosen for prayer. So Terce, known as the Third Hour of the day after dawn, is a fixed time of prayer consisting mainly of psalms. Terce as the marker of midmorning, signals a time to take a break from business for a time of blessing. In the western world we may have a tendency to see terce as an interruption to progress, just when we really get going we have to stop our activity to spend time with the Almighty. But Terce gives us a special gift, space for silence, which in our seductively high speed society, saturated with the sent of success we desperately need. Terce offers us a reminder of what is really important, that progress is not measured in our production or plans but prayer, that it is not found in our frantic activity but in our heavenly Father. Terce calls us away from our activity, and into intimacy with the Almighty. Jesus modeled this stepping away from the work for the word, the bible is filled with examples of Jesus withdrawing from the world to pursue the heart of the Father in prayer. Jesus took time for retreat and rest, resisting the pressure of the constant crowds and the push and pull of their momentary needs. Without retreat and respite we open ourselves up to being run over by the ruinous rush of His world. Jesus, in one of His frequently visited villages, found respite in the home of His close friends, the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. In Luke 10:38 Martha invites Jesus in, its interesting to note here that Luke calls it Martha’s home even though Mary and Lazarus her siblings both live there. Whatever the legal ownership may be Martha has taken charge, placing her priority on her possession, something we see played out in her actions. Shortly after opening up her home to Jesus we see her coming to Jesus to complain about her sister Mary. Martha had invited Jesus in while Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Luke tells us that Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, so she came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” While Martha had opened up her home to Jesus, Mary had opened up her heart and her hearing. Martha’s focus was flawed, it was on the tasks instead of the truth, yet she was so convinced she was right she demanded that Jesus give her justice. Sometimes we can become so bold in our blind beliefs that we even try to boss God around. Notice her conviction was not based on Christ but her cares and concerns, which however good are still not God. While Mary was preoccupied with her place at Jesus feet, Martha’s possession had become her priority. Here we see the subtleness of self deception, and the seduction of activity. On the outside her activity seemed God focused yet it drove her to try and force God to do her will. Martha was more concerned with cleaning than Christ, trading his feet for frantic activity. Self deception leads us to feeling so spiritually superior, that we feel justified in judging others and their choice for Christ. In response to her request Jesus says: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset over all the details. There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus digs deep, helping us to discover the hidden motives of the heart. His response is practical and profound, he doesn’t discount or discredit her good work or dodge her heart issue of worry. Worry is like a worm that burrows into our beliefs, distracting and dividing the heart, pulling us apart. Martha was so distracted by the details that she missed the deity, and like her we also may be tempted to trade the great for the good. The good of house keeping was keeping Martha from the great of God, enjoying the presence of Jesus. Martha missed the peace, because she traded His presence for a possession. Her heart was consumed more by her home than Christ, so she traded the Almighty for activity. She started out intended to serve the Savior yet came to Him demanding He do her bidding. How often have I started out wanting to serve the Savior only to end up focused on self, driven by my dismissive demands. We too like Martha can become distracted, pulled apart by the demands of our day, and we need to discover like Mary what’s really important. We can not afford to rush passed the words of Jesus: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about” for in them we see the secret of satisfied living. The secret is not at the circumference but at the center, its not about reducing our activity but refocusing our heart. Its about where the lens of our longing is focused, its not enough just to open our home to Jesus, He wants our heart. Martha opened the door of her home to Jesus, she just didn’t dine on the divine. Not only was Martha caught up in the whirlwind of activity but she also tried to whisk Mary away with her while using The Lord sanction her action. If we are not careful we can reduce the Almighty to a rubber stamp, there simply to sanction our activity. This time called Terce is really a call to Christ, it isn’t taking us away from but instead its bring us to. Its a time to sit with the Savior, and like Mary to marvel at His majesty. To open our hearts to hear His words and truly listen undistracted to The Lord. In a world thats whizzing by at warp speed we need this mid morning pause in prayer. Today we live tethered lives, in a wired World Wide Web filled with a wealth of information yet steadily producing people with a poverty of attention. People so distracted in the doing that they too miss the deity, a society so bent on being better but bankrupt of belief. If we are not careful we too can go from servant to sullen, demanding our will while missing His. Jesus calls our actions a choice, no one forced Martha she chose and so did Mary. The question is what will we choose, the good or the great? We will be tempted to trade being for doing, to skip time with the Savior for the sake of success. Yet here I have learned to let my soul sit and soak in the silence. Far to often when it comes to truth I have been like a tourist trapped by my itinerary of seeing instead of soaking. But prayer allows me to be more like a pilgrim, who instead of just passing through pauses to drink it in. So far today I have accomplished nothing significant for the Savior yet He loves me and is pleased with me apart from my performance. Real peace is not found in my performance but in His presence. Today like me you have a choice, will you pause in the presence of the Prince or rush on by choosing instead a different preoccupation?

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