On most Sundays, I post a brief vignette from the life of Jesus and consider how it relates to me and to us. I don’t preach. My goal is to understand what the writer said and what the hearers heard. I leave the what it really means to others, smarter than me. It’s impossible for me to do this without some bias. I know this, and when I recognize it, address it. I don’t come from any theological position except love: I read and enjoy almost anything from the Big Three of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant theology. I label myself a Christian agnostic arguing that, in religious matters, unlike measuring, say, the weight of a hunk of Carolina Blue Granite, there is no logical way to be certain of anything. Nor do I trust my puny human brain to understand the transcendent G of the universe. I believe by faith, and not logic, and whatever I glom onto, I hold in an open hand. Loosely.
I post at 1:30 Sunday afternoons, after you get home from church. Don’t fret if you miss it. Email me, and I’ll send it to you, or you can sign up for alerts in the yellow stripe at the top of any page.
Go to any website or podcast spouting off about making you the best version of yourself, and there will be advice about The Morning Routine. It’s a sacrosanct theology among self-helpers, though I’ve never once read an analysis showing that following a successful person’s routine and habits will bring you the same successes.
But this copy-catting is the basis of most of the sacred cows of the self-help world. Want to be rich? Study about how The Millionaire Next Door is a cheapskate and never spends more than seventeen cents on a meal. The same goes for habits, relationships, and your faith. Partly because I’m a contrarian, and partly because I don’t think Christianity is being best buds with Jesus while you watch the Notre Dame football game, I keep toying with starting a podcast called Broken and Humble just because it’s so silly that every Christian thing has to be upbeat, successful, and guaranteed to get you that tri-story waterfront home. In the name of Jesus. Hallelujah!
Truth be told, I have a morning routine myself. I can’t say with certainty that it makes my day better, but at least I look at my calendar so I don’t miss anything. And yes, I still miss things. Without it, I feel like I’m a step behind and have to play catch up all day. I see in the Synoptics that Jesus had one too. This has to have as much weight for me as the routine of Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk or Paul Crouch, right? Jesus’ routine is simple:
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding ’round the door, and he cured many who were sick with diseases of one kind or another; he also drove out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was. In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’
He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighboring country towns, so that I can proclaim the message there too, because that is why I came.’
As we do, let’s pull a couple nuggets out of this brief passage.
- Jesus was beat. Fighting crowds all day, feeding people, and casting out devils takes it out of a guy. Even Jesus. The passage implies – to me, anyway – a block-long line out His front door.
- He left the house. There were probably crowds still milling about the house where He stayed, and there was no other way to be alone. So he got away, to a lonely place.
- In the morning, long before dawn… We see Jesus awake and engaged with the Father and with his day and purpose. This isn’t hoping out of bed ten minutes early to read your devotional before charging off to work. I have every impression that this was primary for Jesus.
- He found a lonely place. He escapes the eyes and needs of followers and the crowd. One commentator says, rightly I think, that a man can give nothing unless he first receives it. Here is Jesus, going off early to a lonely place to receive what He would later give away. How different from today’s celebrities or Christian writers? We post our doings on Instagram and weigh in on every conceivable controversy on Twitter. We run from lonely places and seek out places where we are most visible. We want to be influencers.
- He prayed there. Why does the Lord of Hosts, the Very G of Very G, the Light of Light, need to pray? Whatever your answer, can we agree that if the Master rises early to start his day with prayer, shouldn’t that be the lowest bar for frail and broken humanity?
- I haven’t noticed it before, but Peter goads him to return. “Everybody is looking for you.’ Isn’t this the clarion call of every one of us? How many of us run like a sprinter when we’re told that ‘they really need you?’ Peter says the same thing to Jesus, who, after early morning prayer, has other ideas. “Let us go elsewhere,” He says.
What was Jesus’ morning routine then? To rise before starting His day and to rest in the Father’s presence and receive direction.
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Thanks and blessings!