We have been hanging out with Jesus as he teaches us from the Sermon on the Mount. This season between Epiphany and Lent is a time of considering what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. For those of you who worship on Saturday or Sunday, that consideration has been through the lenses of our emotions. Jesus, both fully human and fully divine, experienced the same passionate emotions that our ours. It is from him that we can learn what emotions deeply felt and healthily managed look like. It is from him that we learn what it is to be fully human. Many theologians down through the centuries understand that when we are fully human, we are then touching upon the divine.
Next weekend we will celebrate the Transfiguration. That’s all good. But we are leaving the Sermon on the Mount before we get to one of my favorite passages: Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus tells us not to worry but to trust God, who provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and who also provides for you and me. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matt. 6:34). Yeah, right. Easy for him to say.
These verses are a powerful exhortation to live fully in the present moment. Living fully in the present is a spiritual discipline. It means noticing when we are obsessing about incidents in the past and bringing ourselves back to the present. It means noticing when we are worried about what might happen in the future and bringing ourselves back to the present. We can bring ourselves back to the present by paying attention to what our senses are telling us. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell or taste or touch? Noticing your breathing, including intentional deep breathing, is also a way of focusing on the present moment.
I am slowly learning that when my emotions are negative, it is often because I’m stuck in the past or in the future. To become aware of that tendency and to continue to bring myself back to the present has a way of diminishing my fear. I feel myself relax into the presence of Emmanuel, God with us. Life is much more manageable in the present moment than dwelling on the past or future. Typically, I have found, in the present moment, all is well and I have much to give thanks for. And if that is not the case, I deal with what I must – in the present moment.
My kids call it being zen. Some writers call it being conscious and others call it mindfulness. I think that Jesus would call it being alert, waking up, paying attention. He might even call it abundant life!
On the journey with you,
P.S. Speaking of emotions, here is a good sermon on anger in light of our current political climate. When I read it, I thought: I wish I’d written that.