This Sunday in sanctuary worship, I will continue my series on A Healthy Spirituality for Our Time by looking at “The Sacredness of the Present.” Our text is the story of Mary and Martha from the tenth chapter of Luke. These two sisters receive a visit from their friend, Jesus. Martha is busy and distracted and Mary is focused and attentive.
When Martha complains that Mary is just sitting there, not helping her with all the chores of hospitality and that Jesus should direct Mary to help, Jesus’ reply to Martha’s demand was not harsh. I can imagine Jesus reaching out and patting her arm with a calm and reassuring touch and then, with a smile, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part.”
What is the one thing that is necessary? What is the better part we should choose? Mary was clear about the priority, it seems. She was present and not distracted by busyness.
Our worries and distractions may certainly be different now than they were two months ago; there are a whole new set of worries and distractions now and it can be difficult to be fully present.
It is clear in his response that Jesus is not criticizing Martha’s work or her efforts to be a good host. Rather, he was pointing out that she was getting so caught up in her busyness and distractedness that she was missing what Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment.”
To get a sense of what “being present” looks like, we can look at Jesus. In the midst of serving an anxious, pressing, busy, chaotic crowd, he could feel the touch of the hemorrhaging woman and focus on her needs. In the midst of the busyness of teaching his chosen disciples, he could connect with the tiny children running underfoot and focus on their needs. In the midst of preaching to and healing a huge throng of people, he could hear the hungry rumblings of empty stomachs and focus on that need.
A number of years ago, Reverend Linda McDermott sent out an email asking people to identify the distractions in their lives — those things that distract from attending to the presence of God in their lives. She received about 150 responses. Here are just a few of them: Selfishness, Other people’s demands that can be spiritually exhausting and draining, Internet, computer, cell phones, television, keeping up with emails, text messages, communication overload, fear of being still and confronting one’s innermost thoughts, illness, busyness, deadlines, relentless demands at work, the economy and money concerns, lack of intentionality, stress, little details of everyday life, the rat race, despair, interpersonal conflict…The list goes on.
What are the greatest distractions you are experiencing right now? That is, what are those things in your life that distract you from being present in each moment? What stands in your way of attending to the presence of God in your life?
This week, I invite you to consider your worries and distractions and how they may be keeping you from being fully present to what is most important. Years ago, I heard someone say, “This moment is a gift — that’s why we call it the present.” Sunday, we’ll explore the gift and the sacredness of the Present.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster