Series: Mindful Christians
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
September 22, 2019
You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Tony Campolo is one of my favorite preachers. Tony’s a popular preacher and a retired professor of sociology. Years ago he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. One class he taught was called, “Existentialism & Sociology.”
On the first day of class, Tony looked at a student sitting in the first row and said,
“I have a question for you. How long have you been alive?”
“I’m 21,” replied the student.
Tony said, “That’s how long your heart has been beating, but how long have you truly been alive while being on this earth?”
Tony then told the story of a time he was on a 9th grade class trip to New York City, and his class went to the top of the Empire State Building. Tony walked over to the edge of the building, leaned on the railing, looking out at the magnificence of the skyscrapers of New York City. He said it was a magical, mystical moment where he took it all in and absorbed the city. For that moment he felt truly alive.
I’ll bet you’ve had a few moments like that, where every fiber of your being felt truly alive. When Dr. Campolo finished telling that story he again asked the student how long he had been alive.
“When you put it that way, Doc. Maybe just a couple of minutes. It’s hard to say. Most of my life has been just the passage of time, with too few moments of genuine aliveness.”
Too few moments of genuine aliveness.
How long have you truly lived?
How often are you truly alive?
Campolo writes: “God wants for us to be more alive to life, and to grasp all of its glorious potentialities!”
More alive to life.
If any group of people should be “more alive to life,” it should be Christ-ians, who believe in a living God, a living Savior, people who seek to breath in and live out the New Life of God’s Holy Spirit!
In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul wrote: “Even when we were dead in our sins, God made us alive together with Christ – and raised us up with him.” (Eph. 2:5)
God made us spiritually alive in Christ. Through the Resurrection of Christ we’ve been made alive! We’ve been raised up together with him. We’ve been made spiritually alive and brought into fellowship with our kind, gracious and loving Creator.
“God who is rich in mercy, out of his great love for us . . . made us alive together with Christ.”
Being alive in Christ should make us alive, awakened individuals, who are not sleepwalking through life, but living life with joy and purpose and genuine moments of aliveness.
We’ve been talking about Mindfulness this month.
It’s a concept that much in vogue these days. It’s taught in a number of schools in the country, and has found to be especially helpful for children with ADD and ADHD. It’s used in prisons. It’s been found to be helpful in stress reduction and in the treatment of addiction.
Our purpose for considering it is to be alive in Christ. To live each day alive to God, to life, to those around us.
Mindfulness is being fully present to what’s happening around us and within us. It’s striving to live in the present moment. It’s a simple idea but it’s not easy, is it?
Too often we live, not in the present, but in the past.
It might be beating ourselves up over past mistakes and failures, or reliving hurts we endured and injustices we’ve experienced.
Illustration. When I moved to Maine in 1995, we had a lot of visitors from Pennsylvania, who’d always wanted to see the coast of Maine. You never know how many friends you have until you move to a beautiful vacation spot! But it was nice showing them around as well as discovering new places to see and new restaurants to eat at.
One time when a couple was visiting, we went to the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound. It’s right on the Cape Neddick River, which is a tidal river, with a little cove filled with Lobster boats. It’s a strikingly beautiful, iconic picture of Maine.
Early into the conversation, our friends from PA starting telling the latest regarding the church we’d all be a part of. Then the conversation slipped into talking about a very painful time in the church – one difficult, challenging year, marked by infighting and division. Still so sad to think about. We spent 20-30 minutes talking about and basically re-living this painful time. And even remember looking out the window at that beautiful scene of the river, and still be thinking about the hurt we all endured 6 years earlier.
Finally, our food came, and someone said, “Let’s change the subject and enjoy this good food.” Thanks be to God.
We should have been enjoying each others’ company as well as the view. And had we been living in the present, we would have done that, but we were living in the past, and that robbed us from making any new connections with our friends. It robbed us of joy.
Other times we live in the past in an opposite way.
We live in the past by reliving the good ole days.
“Remember when all our friends went out for dinner & dancing most Saturday nights?
“Remember how much fun our family used to have when the kids were little?”
Or, “Remember how full our church used to be?”
Many churches struggle with that today, especially those who were quite vibrant during previous decades. It’s okay to reminisce, but if we do it too much we risk not enjoying the present. Living in the present is more important than living in the past
Other times we don’t live in the present out of fear for the future.
Our minds can be held hostage by a future that’s not even here yet.
Worries, anxieties, uncertainties about tomorrow steal away the joy of today. It’s like we’re living in tomorrow, instead of today. That’s why Jesus said,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt. 6:25)
“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Matt. 6:27)
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matt. 6:34)
Don’t worry about tomorrow.
Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
Don’t live it a day early.
Live today, today. And, Live tomorrow, tomorrow.
Mindfulness is orienting ourselves to living – not in the past, and not in the future – but in the present moments of our lives.
This is why Mindfulness helps with stress – because most of the moments of our lives are pretty good!
This is the day that the Lord has made and it’s pretty good!
This very moment is pretty good. The sun is shining. You’re among good, caring, faith-filled, praying people and the preachers almost done. This is a good moment!
Most of our moments are pretty good, if we can just stay in them.
Luke 17:21 is an interesting verse for us to consider.
Jesus’ words are translated three different ways:
The Kingdom of God is within you.
The Kingdom of God is among you.
The Kingdom of God is in your midst.
Either way, they’re all saying that the Kingdom of God is found in the here and now, in this present moment – not just in some far away time at the Second Coming, and not just in the days when Christ walked this earth. The Kingdom of God is here, right now – among & within us.
I’ll close with this thought: Jesus Christ was Mindful.
He lived in the present moment with God. He lived his life fully alive. He was fully attuned to the people around them. He knew if they needed physical healing or spiritual healing or encouragement or food or forgiveness or companionship or teaching. He was in tune with others.
He was also in tune with himself.
- Remember the time he was walking through the street and a woman touched the hem of his garmet and was healed. What did Jesus say? “Who touched me? I felt my healing power go out from me.”
Jesus was in touch with his body and his emotions. Remember he sobbed outside of Lazarus’ tomb. He’s going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but living in that moment he feels the weight of human grief and loss. He was fully present in that moment.
Jesus was also in touch with the world around him.
Look at the lilies of the field. Look at the birds of the air. You get the feeling that he looked! He enjoyed nature. He prayed on top of mountains. He gave his most famous sermon on a mountaintop.(The Sermon on the Mount.) He told stories about the sheep & shepherds he saw in the fields, about the farmers he saw sowing seeds.
Do you see my point? He lived his life fully alive to the people and the world around him! Jesus was fully alive! That’s why Paul says we can be made alive in him!
I want to be fully alive, don’t you?
I want to be alive to God. I want to be alive to God’s presence, alive to God’s power, alive to God’s promptings, don’t you?
I want to be alive to other people. I want to be fully present with others, fully engaged, focused and living in the moment with them, don’t you?
I want to be alive to life, to be fully alive in the moments and minutes of each day, don’t you? I want to “realize life while we live it.”
Think about it. Let’s pray about it.
Lord Jesus, as you were raised from the dead, raise us to new life. Fill our souls, revive our spirits, captivate our minds that we may be fully alive for you! Amen.
The church is a place where we practice being fully alive.
A great saint named Irenaeus once said,“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive!”
May our lives be marked this week by “genuine moments of aliveness.” And may the Grace of our Risen Savior, the Love of God our Creator, and the Joy and Power of the Holy Spirit be with you this day, this moment and forever. Amen.