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Have you experienced highway hypnosis in your faith journey?

Sermon for Sunday, June 25, 2016

 

Scripture connections:

Opening scripture: Psalm 86:11-12, NLT

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,

 

Scripture connection: Romans 6:5-14, NLT

     Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

     12 Do not let sin control the way you live;[a] do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

 

Closing scripture: Psalm 33:20-22, NLT

20 We put our hope in the Lord.
He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
for our hope is in you alone.

 

Reflection: Have you experienced highway hypnosis

                        in your faith journey?

 

            How many of you have been driving along a familiar route and suddenly wonder where in the world you are?

One of my most frightening experiences was driving I-70 back from the farm with the kids and suddenly not having a clue where I was. I knew it was I-70, but I could not have told you whether we had gone through Columbia, crossed the river or anything. I just had to keep driving until I could reconnect the location somewhere along the road between Columbia and Hwy 65 exit.

Undoubtedly I experienced highway hypnosis. DriversEd.com explains highway hypnosis:

Highway hypnosis commonly occurs when driving on open highways for an extended period of time. In this condition, the driver operates the vehicle in a dulled, drowsy, trance-like state (Highway Hypnosis n.d.)

Obviously this condition places not only you as the driver, but the passengers at risk.

Highway hypnosis can also describe one’s faith journey. Falling into a drowsy state in one’s life occurs when things are going along without any major pitfalls or peaks. The faith journey follows the same routine at the same time each week, in the same place even with the same people: Sunday school at 10, worship at 11 and then off for lunch. The faith journey highway hypnosis is like taking a leisurely, mid-afternoon Sunday drive with no particular destiny or even route.

An ABC report describes highway hypnosis:

Going into this autopilot-like mode often happens on long, mundane highway drives with few turns or traffic signals, Meehan said. The driver usually can’t recognize highway hypnosis until his environment is somehow jostled — another car cuts him off or he hits a bump. (What you need to know about highway hypnosis n.d.)

Auto-pilot is exactly what so many Christians are operating on anymore. We have busy lives, we have established a routine of activities, we live on limited incomes, we know when we eat and sleep, and even add in our favorite TV viewing. We are on auto-pilot and everything just seems fine.

But is it? Is everything just fine pacing ourselves through the days and weeks of our lives? Are we consciously following God’s call to action? Are we so hypnotized that we are doing nothing to develop our relationship with God? Or, have we become so hypnotized that we have actually lost our way?

Stop and ask yourself about Abraham and Sarah. Did they suffer from highway hypnosis? In reading the account of Abraham and Sarah through the various chapters in Genesis, one might think they were living a mundane life most of the time. They were an older couple with no children, but they were faithful to God.

The life journey of these two certainly did not follow a typical pattern even for the nomadic tribes of the ancient times. They were directed by God to leave Egypt and relocate. They had not been on these roads before, so the possibility of highway hypnosis was unlikely. Their faith journey, though, was filled with potholes that kept them from falling into a hypnotic state.

Think about your own life, now. Have you reached a point that life is mundane and the routines are lulling you into a hypnotic state. Each day is much the same as the other. The routine is the same unless it is interrupted by a doctor’s appointment, a luncheon date or an afternoon of cards—and even those events can become a matter of routine.

If God spoke to you, would you be alert enough to recognize him as Abraham did? Abraham’s faith was so strong that he followed whatever path God sent him on. He believed in God’s promise and that faith was strong enough to guide him in all his worldly choices—even offering the hospitality to three strangers who happen to stop nearby. The result was the long awaited birth of a son even at their advanced age.

Sarah laughed. But Sarah followed Abraham’s lead in faith and the son Isaac was born. Do we laugh at the ideas God is asking us to do? Have we become so hypnotized by the routines of our lives that we do not even recognize God?

In reality, much of our hypnosis in our faith journey could be diagnosed as acedia. This is a very unflattering diagnosis because it means laziness or indifference in religious matters (Acedia n.d.) Another definition from the commentary for the lectionary:

. . . acedia—the inability to care that we don’t care. . . . Acedia is a spiritual foe. Whether the bout is short or long, weak or intense, it has a way of numbing and lulling a person. God seems remote. Our confidence or sense of faith fades. . . . in reality acedia is a serious spiritual disease. (Wilson 2013, 174)

As in any diagnosis, knowing is the first step in finding healing. The concern, now, is how does one heal from this faith journey highway hypnosis. Is there any treatment that is effective, especially for those who are following what has long been the expected behaviors—Sunday school and worship?

In the recommendations from the DriversEd.com site, the key is to

. . . be aware of your surroundings and to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel, take frequent breaks. If possible, avoid driving for long periods of time and stop if you begin to feel tired.

Granted that does not make much sense in terms of faith hypnosis, but the advise listed on the ABCNews site may help:

. . . taking a break every 90 minutes or so, or — if you’re lucky enough to be driving with someone else — switch drivers. Listening to the radio isn’t enough to prevent this daze, and can even contribute to it, he cautioned. And always get at least six hours of sleep the night before a long trip, . . .

The prescription for acedia, or spiritual journey hypnosis, is available and clearly developed in the scriptures. John Wesley also has prescribed a remedy and we know it so well and have heard it so many times that we are lulled into an indifference about how to stay in relationship with God and to follow the recommended route to reach the final destination successfully.

The scriptures are filled with recommendations, but do we read them and study them. Do we commit them to memory so they are there to use and reuse? Are we meeting regularly to study with others and be held accountable for our daily journey? Are we seeing the needs of others and finding ways to meet them? Have we become lazy in doing all that we can for all we can in all the ways we can?

The Methodist movement begun by John Wesley in the mid1700s grew because the service they provided others in need, but also because there was active involvement in small groups that met regularly and helped each other to maintain their journey and to hold each other accountable in their own lives.

Sunday school evolved into a quick fix remedy to the changing culture during the 1860s. The class meetings faded away and about 15 years ago, the value of small group study revived. The small groups of less than a dozen meeting together at different times during the week in homes, restaurants, or church classrooms has ignited the faith journeys of many. The small group has healed acedia for some and nurtured new believers into discipleship.

If any one of us, or the congregation as a whole, has reached highway hypnosis along the spiritual journey, we are responsible for finding a remedy. Even during the 6th century, a monk Dorotheos of Gaza, knew the risk of highway hypnosis among the monks he taught. His example was of a multi-spoke wheel.

God is the hub, each of us is a spoke while the wheel that rolls along the road is the world in which we journey. The closer to the hub we are, the closer we are to each other. The more distant we become from God, the farther we move from each other (Wilson 2013, 175). Class meeting, which can be a Sunday school class, keep us closer to God and prevents us from highway hypnosis/acedia.

Jesus expected his disciples to follow his example in preaching, teaching, and making new disciples for the transformation of the world. The church began as small groups meeting anywhere they could, in secret at times and in the open at times.

Paul wrote letters to the small, new churches struggling to keep their faith. He knew the journey would not be easy so his letters to the early churches were designed to address the very problems that challenged them. He encouraged them. He sent them missionaries from his own followers. He returned whenever he could.

What are we doing to avoid the acedia or highway hypnosis in our spiritual journeys? What are we doing to help others become disciples in Christ? How have we adapted our practices to the shifts in the culture around us?

Just like a fresh cup of coffee or even a cool drink of water can help snap drivers out of highway hypnosis, we need to find the best ways to heal from acedia or even to avoid acedia. We need small group studies and service to avoid the laziness in our spiritual lives.

Closing prayer:

Dear heavenly Father,

 

We are driving along in our lives carelessly.

Wake us up and keep us alert.

Help us avoid the hypnosis of daily life

And find the joy in learning about Christian living

While serving one another along our journey.

Take hold of the steering wheel and guide us along

So we can safely arrive at the ultimate destination

Alongside you and the other faithful in eternity.

 

In the name of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, amen.

 

Works Cited

Acedia. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/acedia (accessed June 23, 2017).

Highway Hypnosis. https://driversed.com/resources/terms/highway_hypnosis.aspx (accessed June 23, 2017).

The Life Application Bible. Vol. NIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

What you need to know about highway hypnosis. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/highway-hypnosis/story?id=21098081 (accessed June 23, 2017).

Wilson, Paul Scott. Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary: Preaching Year A. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013.

 

 

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