by admin on November 4, 2012

Matthew 6: 25-34
Reflections for 28 October 2012

Homework from last week Invest in relationships. Search for people with a similar and growing passion for God’s unnerving will.

Express gratitude. In expressing gratitude you begin to be taken in by wonder, appreciation and thankfulness for life.

Cultivate optimism. An interesting place to begin with this is to recognize negativity when it raises its head. Where will that take you?

Discover and work in your purpose. Do you align your daily activities with the long-term meaning and purpose of your life?

Today: Contentment One day at a time.

I woke up this morning at 4. I will be driving to DC later today for a conference this week…… And right into the middle of the century’s worst storm. What was I thinking? I should have purchased that travel insurance for my hotel. Will the turnpike be open the whole way? What happens if I get stranded someplace in the middle of Pennsylvania? Will I be washed away in some freak flash flood?

I think I might have misspelled a word on my business card? Is 5,000 too much? Not enough? Did I lock the door to the office when I left yesterday?

I flipped over onto my side…into a fetal position. Then I remembered reading someplace that sleeping that way is indicative of someone who worries and is obsessed about uncertainty. I remembered, too, an article I read yesterday on psychopathology and began to wonder if I wasn’t being too pathological. I tried deep breathing—think happy thoughts. Then I looked at the clock—4:01.

Does anyone track with me on this? How hard to be content when the mind is racing miles a minute and usually in unhelpful places. Would I be foolish not to be thinking about these things?

For my one-minute worry attack, was I any better? Was my path more illumined? Doubtful.

This is pretty straightforward. Don’t worry, you have better and more important thing to do. Any questions?

Assuming that the Sermon on the Mount was Jesus’ standard sermon/message in Matthew what is he driving at? There is a constant theme reverberating: God’s kingdom is here and now; this is how God’s eternal, compassionate, wisdom-filled, majestic, and awesome presence is down to earth in your lives. To say that we live in anxious times is an understatement. Just listen to any media outlet for five minutes and you’ll be inundated by messages of apocalyptic terror. Anxious people are contagious.

Do you think in Jesus day people were any less anxious? Anxiety is a factor in life, period. It is a natural response to a threat which is either perceived or real. And all living things—plants, animals, humans…..even bacteria… have it. Life is anxious. What we do with it reflects our spiritual core and determines the directions of our life.

Chapter 6 in Mathew has a focus on food and finances—two of the most anxiety producing issues for people, regardless of when they occupy earth. They are symbolic of the will to survive and thrive. In a most radical way Jesus wraps up his discussion of both of these with these words of “don’t worry, be happy.” You can imagine the reaction to that. In a way isn’t Jesus really aiding and abetting laziness and the hand-out mentality?

But Jesus raises some important questions. Isn’t life more than the accumulation of stuff? And by all of our worrying, pouting, demanding can we actually add time to our lives? Isn’t the quality of life somehow more critical than the quantity?

Jesus uses two very common everyday pictures—birds and flowers to underscore not so much their lack of activity but more to the point—the actual graceful intervention of God on their behalf. When we are comfortable this is an easy scene—but when faced with poverty disease, tragedy, and all the ugly sides of life— then what?

Why take on more than the immediacy of the day? The proverbial advice at the conclusion—sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof—echoes the ancient sages. But Jesus isn’t interested in continuing human philosophical speculations; instead he offers a radical move away from “happy thoughts” to the deep spiritual well of trust and faith. Yes, when Jesus speaks of “isn’t life more than….?” He is referring to more than biology. The word here is psyche—soul. The entirety of life: biology, emotions, intellect, spirit. Anxiety and worry are spiritual issues.

In an interesting development within the psychological-therapeutic field there is more and more interest in the spiritual nature of our humanity. For all of his brilliant protests otherwise, Christopher Hitchens still cannot make a tight case against the spiritual reality of life. Jesus’ words here signal a depth to existence that can only be comprehended when one has exhausted all human endeavors at understanding and can admit to the utter immensity of life. In other words—life is more than the accumulation of your accomplishments.

Mindfulness is a big thing these days. Another therapeutic technique for some. Perhaps the single most important thing to remember about mindfulness is this when we practice it we discover how mindless we are most of the time. Just this morning at 4:00 I was off to the races. Mindfulness—how will all my anxiety do anything to change anything?—can bring one back to the sense of the present moment. This is why, I think, Jesus point to birds and flowers. They just are. You don’t need any special equipment to enjoy them.

The mindful tradition that is part of all the major world religions, and has at its core practice: breathing. You can’t get any more basic than that. You take it wherever you go—thus no special equipment. And breath is what makes us alive. “And God breathed into Adam and he became a living being.

In this brief passage Jesus simply challenges his hearers to actually practice a reality of God that transcended all the rules and regulations they tried so desperately to observe. Maybe they didn’t even try to do that. What he was saying is that everyone is the recipient of a beauty and holiness that surpasses mere existence. It is called eternal life. It is just there. The key to claiming it as your own is simply to be. Breathe in, breathe out. So simple and yet to scary.

Please don’t hear me saying that Jesus is just some Zen teacher. No, he is the Son of God whose life is a constant invitation for us to enter into that same kind of obedience for the life of the world. This is not about personal comfort and finding yourself. This is about becoming empowered and equipped for the mission of the world’s redemption.

Redemption presents something different from all the political garbage we listen to and vote on. Redemption is about growing in trust of God and being non-anxious. It is about become adult and maturing in a way that brings honor to all life, human and otherwise. It is about more thoughtful responding instead of emotional reactivity. It is about becoming a force in the world that moves us beyond anxiety to justice and peace.

Tend to yourself. Manage your own anxiety. Grow in your awareness of your own body and its anxiety triggers. This is the fundamental spiritual issue of our day.

Cultivate a larger perspective that includes all of life. (system)

Think in terms of practical applications (birds, flowers) on a daily basis.

Next Week: Thanking and Praising God.

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