Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Under Pressure

"When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies."

These past few days I have been driving back and forth from our new home in New York to Madison, New Jersey in order to teach at Drew. These summer sessions are very intensive, and this one is particularly intense as we are meeting all day for a week. What a normal course might cover in a semester we are covering in a week. There is lots to read and absorb, and there is little time to be wasted. They are very good sports and excellent students, all of them in the Doctor of Ministry program from many places across the country. All of them have very full lives and are diligent in their studies as well. They are under enormous pressure but rarely show it. I find the commute back and forth to be the most stressful part of the work and I put the pressure on myself to provide for them a rich experience.

Jesus finds himself before Herod and Pilate. Both men are initially fascinated with Jesus but also fearful of his power. They are under extraordinary pressure from the local religious authorities, and they put Jesus under incredible scrutiny. His refusal to knuckle under their pressure infuriates the potentates. They become friends out of mutual hatred for Jesus who would not muscle under for their power. How often we pressure ourselves to succeed and accomplish when we are really trying to score and retain power. How often are we invited by God into silence and prayer when we want to respond to pressure from all around for action. Too often we make friends with bad people and make bad agreements, just so that the pressure on us is lessened.

Today, I want to live without pressure, knowing there is much to do, but also knowing, as Jesus does, that God is in charge and the only one to whom we answer. God promises to never give us more burden than we can carry, more pressure than we can take. God does not push people to the breaking point - people do. And so today I want to recognise pressure as a attribute of being human and offer all the pressure and performance anxiety to God, asking for peace in the midst of pressured times. May we all invite God into our day, into the pressures and anxiety, knowing that God's shoulders are vast and broad and our burdens and pressures are small things to the author of love.

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