A Matter of Priorities
Old Testament Reading- 1 Chronicles 16:23-36
New Testament Reading- Luke 10:38-42
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -October 31, 2021
In 1973 Harry Chapin recorded a song that was based on a poem written by his wife Sandy chronicling her ex-husbands relationship with his father. Harry read his wife’s poem but passed it by initially. Later, after the birth of their son Josh, she zapped him with this poem again, but this time he got the message as he was on the road so much that he was missing his young son’s life. Harry released the song in 1974 and it became an instant hit, topping the charts at #1 in December of that same year.
The song starts by telling us about a man whose son has just been born but is too busy with work to be around much, even missing his son’s first steps in his absence. As the child continues to grow, he asks his dad to spend time with him, but again, the father is just too busy. Each lead up to the chorus tells us that the son understands his father’s absence and like most children, idolizes his father, wanting to be just like him and that they will catch up on time together later.
By the third verse the son is in his college years and the roles have begun to reverse. Now the son is the busy one and never seems to have much time for his father, who now, later in life, wants to talk.
The last verse of the song finds the father calling his son on the telephone wanting to spend some time together, to which, the son gives him a list of excuses why he doesn’t’ have time due to his busy lifestyle. It is at this moment that the father realizes that his son really has grown up to be just like him, too busy to enjoy what really matters.
The song focuses on choices and priorities in life. All our life we are faced with priorities, our family, our parents, our jobs, our social life, our friends, our free time, the list goes on and on. In the song, the singer falls into the trap that many people face, the balance between family time and a career, but this is only one choice in life, don’t we have much more than that? We are a busy nation, and we have to be busy to afford all the stuff we want.
I can remember when I went out on my own. I had an old black and white T.V. that I upgraded some years later to a console color television with a remote that was made in the late 1970’s and was a hand-me-down from my grandfather. All my furniture was second hand or patio furniture. I had to buy my first washer and dryer separately because I could only afford one at a time. I bought the washer first because I could hang the clothes to dry on lines in my basement. Later, when I could afford a dryer, I felt like a king, and I appreciated not having to go to the laundromat anymore. It seems now days that young people want and expect to have everything that they had at their parent’s house as soon as they leave home. Big screen televisions, brand new furniture that all matches each other, and brand-new cars that took most of us years to afford. If you want all this you must work hard to get it or should I say, you have to work hard to pay it all off when bought on credit that you probably don’t even have yet. Priorities, do I want stuff, or do I want debt, these are some of the choices we have to make.
How about children? Raising children is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things you will ever experience, and it has many priorities. How do we jockey two parent’s careers and raising children? We must choose which childcare to use, because we cannot stay home and risk our careers to raise children and we both have to work to afford the childcare. When the kids get older, they have to be in every imaginable sport and program so that they get the most life experience possible, oh and did I forget to mention that coaches and parents now all think they are raising the next professional athlete in every sport known. Forget about family events or time with parents or grandparents because they have to go to practice seven days a week and through holidays just to be on the team. My question is, who wants this, the parents, the coaches, or the kids?
Don’t get me wrong, I get it, I have been the same way, but the older I get the better I am at saying no. Sometimes, you have to say no. When I was younger, I thought it was better to be everything to all people, try to please as many people as possible. Seems alright, but I found that all I did was split myself up so much that I couldn’t please anyone. I found that if I prioritized my life, it was much more manageable and effective. But how do I do this? How do I know what should be first?
Just a few weeks ago, I had been feeling bad about not seeing a special couple. These two are parents of one of my best friends. They were like parents to me, we were always very close, but as I got to thinking about it, I hadn’t seen them in years. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t even really remember the last time I saw them. I was full of excuses about why I hadn’t seen them, and they were even good excuses, I was busy; multiple, long hour jobs, a family, etc., etc., but if they were good excuses, then why did I feel so guilty? Because ultimately, they were just excuses. If it was a priority to see them, then I would make it happen. I finally decided to do just that. I made it a point to have everything that needed done for Sunday by Friday night, giving me time on Saturday afternoon to make the trip to see them. I pulled into the driveway and my friends dad and I saw each other for the first time in years. I don’t know which of us was happier. The three of us talked for a couple hours about old times and about how life was going currently. It was a little hard for me to see how age is starting to change them both, but I was so blessed to be able to see them again. I made a promise that day to myself and to them that I would never again stay away so long, and I meant it.
We prioritize every single day. We prioritize to go to work so that we can support
ourselves and our families. We prioritize to go to our children’s or grandchildren’s functions. We prioritize to eat and drink to sustain our bodies, and we prioritize our free time. Sadly, in this “Me World” I think that many people have become so self-absorbed that they prioritize their free time over everything else. My family was sitting at a restaurant one night waiting
for our meal and enjoying time talking to each other. Next to us, a family of four, all sat at their table waiting for their food too, but each had their focus on their own hand-held
devices not saying a word to each other. I don’t tell you this to say that my family is better, I tell you this to illustrate that our priorities are completely messed up.
Another time, Barb and I were on a beach in New Jersey and a young mother, and two young children were next to us. The two kids were making sandcastles complete with moats that they would fill with sea water from their little red plastic buckets. It was nice seeing children using their imaginations and having so much fun. Every time the kids would try to get their mothers attention to show her what they had done, she barely could raise her eyes out of her tablet to half-heartedly say, “Oh, that’s nice honey.” These are moments you don’t get back. These are the days in your children’s lives that never come again. Priorities!
So, I ask the question again, “How do I prioritize my life?” The simplest answer and the best answer I can give you is this, “Go to God.” “I have,” you say, “I have prayed daily for the answer on how I can prioritize my busy life to do what I know in my heart needs to be done.” My reply, “Did you really ask, or is it just lip service?” Often, we ask God for help, but we are unwilling to listen or do not believe that God will help us. God will always help when you sincerely ask, but we must be willing to listen and then act. Sometimes we may not like how he answers us, because it may take away from our wants and desires. God already knows what you should and should not be doing, he already knows our hearts and whether we are being selfish or selfless.
"Often, we ask God for help, but we are unwilling to listen or do not believe that God will help us." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
When a single parent can barely get by a day without falling apart emotionally because they can’t balance work and family, God is listening when you ask for help. Next thing you know, a job offer comes along that is right up your alley and it just happens to offer more pay and less hours, a modern miracle. When a child is in two sports at the same time, one at school, and one at a sports center and the parents are just barely making it happen. The child is tired too and their grades and mood are starting to show it. Prayer after prayer goes out to God and finally, we take the time to listen, and the answer is clear. The parents talk it over and sit down to talk to their child and tells them it is time to prioritize and make a choice, which sport do you like best, because it can’t be both. The choice is made, making it much easier for the parents, but the child also finds that they are getting more rest, getting better grades, and have found that doing one sport at a time allows them to be better at the one they chose. Priorities!
So far, we have been talking about all these everyday decisions we contend with, but there is one more major thing that we must begin to prioritize to get it all right, time for the most important thing in your life, God. The prophet Haggai tells us the Lord’s words when the Israelites have taken an eighteen-year break from rebuilding the Temple of God,
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” Haggai 1:2-11
The Lord is telling His people to get right with Him first and the rest will be taken care of by God. Remember what Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” We build cars to run on gasoline, but God created us to run on Him. Without God, we can do nothing, we are like a car that is out of gas. Prioritize God in your lives first and the rest will be added to you. “What’s that, you don’t have time?” “Hogwash!” I know it, you know it, and God certainly knows it. We prioritize everything over God all the time. We won’t miss a football game on Sunday that took up a whole afternoon, but we don’t have time for an hour at God’s house on Sunday morning. We took time to be on Facebook off and on all day long, but we don’t have time to say prayers thanking God for our meals and for all the other good things in our lives. We prioritized our daily trip to the bar, but we didn’t have time to come to church on Wednesday night to learn more about God’s Word. I know this sounds an awful lot like a guilt trip, but it's not, it only sounds like it because we all stand guilty as charged, we have time for almost anything in our lives, but not much, if any time for our Almighty Father. I want you to imagine the ‘Cats in the Cradle’ song but in each instance where there is someone wanting love and a relationship, place God in that role and place us in the role of the person who is always too busy.
"We build cars to run on gasoline, but God created us to run on Him."~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
It is a crazy, busy world we live in, and sometimes each of us wonders how we will get through it, but always remember what God tells us in Psalm 46:10, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” This is our Lord, our God, our Creator, and our Holy Father and He, who is much busier than you could ever be, is waiting patiently for you, just you to have a relationship with Him. He has prioritized this relationship with you amongst all things. Don’t tell Him, “I don’t know when I will have time for you, but I’m sure we’ll have a good time then,” tell Him, “I gonna be like Him, yeah. You know I’m gonna be like Him.” You see, the more we make time for God, the
more He makes time for us. Yes, He is always there, but when we show more interest in a relationship, He gives even more of Himself. The more we know of His Word, the more it penetrates us and guides us, so that we do begin to be just like Him. When we prioritize God and His kingdom in our lives, we find that we are happier, healthier, more patient with others, kinder, able to avoid chaos and drama that dominated our lives before. We learn to love one another, and not just those we are friends and relatives with, but all people. We find that our priorities change and that what was too busy before, becomes easier to manage, yes still busy, but a calmer busyness. We feel good about our new relationship with God and that has a way of shining out for others to see.
Remember our New Testament lesson today and about what Jesus said to Martha and her priorities, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Let these words of our Lord and Savior take root in your heart today, so that you too will prioritize and choose what is better, to have a right relationship with God first. Then just watch what He does with the rest of your life. Thanks be to God. Amen.