Updated: Jan 31
My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut. He had a way of summing up life simply, while grasping the way life is … satirically.
While I like all of Vonnegut’s novels, I have a fondness for his 1963 book, Cat’s Cradle. In that book he introduced several terms, which can be found on the Wikipedia article about the book.
One is “busy, busy, busy.” This is defined as words whispered by a fictitious religious sect [Bokononists] when “they think how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.”
In the reading today from the Book of Amos we can sum up how God saw the people of Israel were, “busy, busy, busy.”
In that reading, God shouts at the people of Israel, saying (through Amos), “Be silent!”
You remember a few weeks back when Elijah was in a mountain cave, trembling, and God told him to go outside as he was going to be passing by? God was in the silence, not the noise of business.
In the optional reading from Genesis today, we see how Abraham got “busy” when the LORD appeared to him as a trinity of men passing by. Abraham begged them to stay and he went to work getting himself, Sarah, his servant working on preparing the three men something filling.
In the Gospel reading today, Luke tells the story of Martha and Mary and the time Jesus was welcomed into Martha’s home. Martha became “busy, busy, busy,” because she wanted to make everything perfect for such an esteemed visitor. Mary sat in silence and listened.
The complication of the machinery of life (busy, busy, busy) is pointed out by Jesus, when he tells Martha, “You are worried and distracted by many things.”
Jesus said, “There is need of only one thing.”
Paul explained how Jesus was that one thing, the “better part, which will not be taken from” anyone who stops being “busy, busy, busy.”
We have to sit at the LORD’s feet and listen to what Jesus said, and what the other lessons of the Holy Bible say.
Paul said, “I became [a servant to the church of Christ] according to God’s commission.”
This means he sat at the feet of Christ and listened. For that dedication he was rewarded with the Holy Spirit.
Paul said he was given that gift so that others could be helped. That help comes by making the word of God fully known. What we think we know is not complete. There is a mystery element hidden, which is only revealed to those who have the Holy Spirit within them, who live holy lives. That hidden is revealed to the saints.
Paul went on to basically give a job description of a Saint. He said they proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. They warn EVERYONE who is “busy, busy, busy” to sit and listen. Then, they teach EVERYONE in all wisdom. This is so other Saints will be born through that wisdom, with EVERYONE mature in Christ.
The word that has been translated as “mature” is the Greek word “teleios” (τέλειος). It can also translate to say, “complete [in Christ],” “perfect [in Christ],” or “more perfect [in Christ].” The word can likewise state, “brought to its end, finished,” “wanting nothing necessary to completeness,” and “consummate human integrity and virtue.” The translation as “mature” is actually more relative to the fact that Paul was writing to male Colossians, who were “full grown adults of full age.”
The concept of perfection comes from age. “Aged to perfection,” like a fine wine or cheese.
Have you seen the commercial on TV for Cheez-it crackers, where the guy in the white lab coat has a checklist for maturity and a hoop of cheese tries to act mature, but is still in need of some aging?
Being “mature in Christ” is the difference between Martha and Mary. It is the difference between someone who is “busy, busy, busy” and someone who sits and listens. It is the difference between someone pretending to be aged to perfection, when really being childish.
In the Amos reading, God showed Amos “a basket of summer fruit.” This is a statement of the “first fruits,” which in ancient Israel were the sacrificial gift brought up to the altar during the festival of Shavuot. There were seven: wheat, barley, grapes in the form of wine, olives in the form of oil, pomegranates, dates, and figs. They represented the fruits grow in Israel. The metaphor is relative to the people of Israel; and what Amos described is unripe and immature, thus sour and bitter, or over-ripened, thus mushy and putrid.
The fruit of Christ are seen in Martha, Mary, and Paul. Martha still needed to overcome the distractions and worries of being a fruit still on the branch. Mary was a fruit picked at the right time for it to ripen in the basket … to age to perfection. Paul was the seed planted in the ground, growing to the maturity of a tree, yielding new fruit.
The people of ancient Israel lost their focus. The became distracted and worried, meaning they turned their backs to God and got lost. Martha was lost for a while, but she had someone call her back to the light. Paul was being that same beacon to those in the body of Christ, a Christian church.
But, walking towards the light is not easy, because of all the distractions and worries … all the “busy, busy, busy” of a complicated and unpredictable machinery of life. Paul said, “You were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” Paul had been there, done that, so he knew just how hard it seems to stop trying to do it all and just stop and listen.
Paul said, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake.” That says he suffered for stopping and listening. He felt pains because he sat at the feet of Christ and paid attention. However, the reward of fruits … like the Colossians … made it all worthwhile. He celebrated their efforts in the church, like a day of feast for the First Fruits, as commanded by God to His first fruits.
Unfortunately, those people of Israel didn’t live up to their end of the bargain and became scattered like weed spores in the wind. They became too “busy, busy, busy” to listen.
Using another term from Vonnegut, in Cat’s Cradle, they became “granfalloons.” They became a group of people who imagined they had a connection that did not really exist. In the book, the narrator used the example of “Hoosiers,” where Hoosiers are understood to be people from Indiana that have no true spiritual destiny in common. In reality, all they share is a name.
God’s gift to mankind is the freedom to choose to live like you want. You can be a Christian in name, easily distracted and often worried, or you can be truly connected to God, through the Holy Spirit.
If you take the time to mature in Christ, to know the perfection of God’s wisdom, to sit at the feet of Christ and listen, those gains will not be taken from you. You will be more. You will bear fruit in Christ.