The Reward of the Present

This is a transcript from the January 13, 2019 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

Russ started us off last week on a new series called Sanity Prayer for 2019, trying to get us re-centered. On New Year, we always want to make resolutions. We want to improve something about ourselves. We start out so hopeful. These are the things we're going to do to better ourselves. Because deep inside of all of us, we feel like at some point we get too busy. We're caught up in too much stuff. We're constantly thinking about what needs to be done next or thinking about things that happened in the past.

Reward of the Present - New Hope Church, Castle Rock, CO

Today, we're going to talk about the reward of the present. What does it mean to be present in the here and now, to be here now, and how can we do that? Because I think it's very important to understand that a lot of us will either live in the future, or we live in the past. Maybe some of you right now are thinking about, "What am I going to eat after this? Where am I going to go out to eat? Am I going to go to Egg and I?" Some of us are thinking about this last week. What did I do wrong? Do I need to reconcile with somebody? Did I mess this up at work or worse?

We avoid the present by either going to the past or to the future. We're going to talk about that with the help from Star Wars, Jerry Seinfeld and someone named Shauna Niequist. We'll start with Star Wars. Star Wars everybody knows is part of our DNA as a culture in America. Many of you grew up with it. Most of us probably grew up with it. Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, so what happened then Disney wants to make a whole bunch of Star Wars stuff. They started making new films.

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They made episode seven, eight, and they made Rogue One and Solo Star Wars Story. The key to all this was that it felt and looked like the original trilogy from the '70s and '80s. No more of that prequel stuff from the 2000s that a lot of people didn't like. They tapped into this nostalgia that it had to feel and look like what it did when you were a kid, and Disney is great at that.

Then last year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out. What happened then is that this movie took the whole narrative of the Star Wars story in a different direction. There was a lot of backlash from hardcore fans so much so that it hurt a couple people. There was the star of the movie, Daisy Ridley, and then Kelly Marie Tran.

Reward of the Present - New Hope Church, Castle Rock, CO

Both quit social media because they're receiving hate mail and hate tweets and all kinds of stuff that it wasn't even enjoyable to engage with fans anymore. This is often in the entertainment industry called toxic fandom.

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It's not just with Star Wars; it's with any kind of comic book movie. If people are stuck in what the narrative was in the past and what it's supposed to be according to the comic books or what Star Wars started out to be, if it doesn't fall in line with that, they tear it apart. It's not just them living in the past and missing out the new things that are being done in the now, but they're also hurting people in the process.

I think what's underneath all of this is past toxic fandom but a toxic nostalgia. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we think was amazing. Back in a certain day, it worked then. It gave you a certain feeling. It's great, but then that doesn't work always now. To take that from then to now without you knowing is going to hurt some people because there were problems back then. This nostalgia keeps us from seeing what's happening in front of us right now and focusing on what God is doing in our midst.

Next is going to be a video clip from Jerry Seinfeld's documentary, Comedian. This was after his show, and he was doing stand up again. It also parallels with the story and journey of Orny Adams. Orny Adams is going to talk about the fear of missing out, basically. He's constantly looking towards the future. He's like, "Am I doing the right things?" You'll see Jerry's response. (Click on the photo below to see the clip.)

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Orny Adams is concerned about, "Am I doing everything right? Am I supposed to be where I am now? What do I need to do to be in a different place in the future?" Jerry just says, "What are you doing? This work you're doing now is wonderful. What would you rather be doing? Your parents?" He's just flabbergasted by his questions because he's constantly thinking of the future and wanting to get to a certain point. Many of us have that in our own lives. We're thinking about we need to do this and that to be able to reach that.

Planning is perfectly fine. Planning is a good thing, but sometimes when all we're thinking about is what's coming up next we get stuck in the future rather than now. Maybe a lot of you as parents are constantly wondering or thinking about, "I got to get them to this, and then after that, we got to go this. Then we have to go the grandparents' house", and so on and so forth. We either get stuck in this future thinking or past thinking that keeps us from being here and now.

Shauna Niequist is a mother and an author. She wrote a book called Present Over Perfect. In that book, she describes a night where she was with friends and their talk about the future together and what are some of the goals that they need to reach and where is your life leading you. One friend said that a way to get at your desire or dream is to answer the question, if you had a free calendar, nothing on it and if somebody gave you all the money you ever needed in your bank account, what would you do?

Her response was, "The first thing that leapt into my mind, stop. I would stop. I would rest. I would do nothing at all. I would sleep. The thought of it almost made me weep". She said she feels like she's going 100 miles an hour constantly, and she would stop. She wants to have a Sabbath, but she doesn't quite know how to get from where she is to there.

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I think a lot of us can relate to that. This feeling of like it's too much. Too much is going on. I just want everything to stop just for a moment. If time could stand still, if I could just get this done or I could just take a breath, I could take a nap. She brings us into the present, into the anxieties we feel and the hopes that we want. Somehow we want to be present. We want to be present to what's going on in front of us. I think this is a problem. We're losing our sanity with how busy we fill our schedules, how many things we have to get to, thinking about things in the past and think about things in the future. We're just overbooked, stressed and stretched out.

Reward of the Present - New Hope Church, Castle Rock, CO

How many of you feel like that picture is a good depiction of your life right now? We're constantly either looking toward the future or the past to escape, to numb ourselves. There's good memories in the past, and we just want to go there because right now it doesn't feel that great so we want to go the future because everything's going to be great in the future. We escape to those to numb ourselves from the present.

In our text today, Jesus is responding to some things that happened earlier in Matthew. There's this God that people in Rome are worshiping. It's a god of greed, so the idea is that they need more and more and more. Jesus in this passage is slowing that down, says, "You don't need more and more and more. What you need is to slow down, to understand that if God cares for these flowers, if God cares for these birds and they have no worries in the world that they're just being in the present they're living now, how much more do I love you that you should also be content with where you are now?

Jesus talks about a God who calls us to know that we are enough and that this moment is enough. For some of us, this idea that Jesus says do not worry, that Jesus says look at the birds and the flowers, you should just be like them, we think, "No, there's things to worry about", because worry is a universal thing. It doesn't just fit one person or one group of people. No matter if you're really rich you have worries. If you're parents, you have worries. If you're single, you have worries. If you're grandparents, you have worries. If you're retired, you have worries. If you're impoverished, you have worries. Worry is universal. Everybody has worries about their life and what's going to happen next.

What Jesus is getting at is something deeper than that, something deeper than just being relaxed, but it's a content of the soul being focused on something greater than ourselves. Where do we go from here? Jesus is telling us not to worry, but we feel like there are things to worry about. They're some things that need to be fixed. There's justice that needs to be done. There's hurt that needs to be comforted. There's joys there to be celebrated.

What if this worry Jesus is talking about is more about the spirit, the soul? Because clearly, in this passage Jesus is telling us that ourselves as people, there's more to life than just these things, stuff that we have or these things to do. There's more to us than just simply that.

There's something about reorienting our heart and our soul and our mind on the things that God is doing in our midst, that God is calling us to do. Somehow maybe something like that, as we change hearts and minds that that slowly is this domino effect that things begin to change and that those worries about maybe people going hungry or those worries about people being hurt, slowly start to go away because we're being focused on the reign of God, or the kingdom of God, or what God is wanting us to do now to bring heaven to earth now.

It's about reorienting our soul, making a choice to choose God every day. That God, his priorities and his justice and righteousness are the things that are set before us. Mark A. Lomax says this. He says, "Making the choice for the God who is compassionately mindful of all creation transforms human self-understanding, human identity and socio-economic arrangements". He's saying when we are mindful of who we are and our place in creation and what God is doing before us that it transforms everything. Everything begins to fall into place. There's a bigger understanding that there's something going on that's larger than ourselves, and that's what being in the present can do. It can remind us of that and our role in that. We give ourselves to a greater story.

How do we get there? Because as Shauna Niequist said earlier, "I want to be there, but I'm over here, and I just don't quite know how to go over there". What are ways that we can be more present, more mindful of what God is doing in our midst? What's going on with other people in our midst? I think there's a couple ways that we can tune in with the needs of those around us and what God is calling us to.

I got three things that can help bring you into the present: one is practice playfulness, creativity. Creativity is something that constantly reminds us of something bigger. It helps us zone in on the now. If you're listening to the piano being played or Nick playing, when those things are happening with music, when art is happening, that brings us here now to what is unfolding before us. Find different creative ways to be present.

Maybe you are a mom who's constantly bringing kids back and forth to things. Maybe find creative ways that you can be present with your children in the car on the way to the next event. Maybe finding just about 15 minutes each day to be present with your spouse instead of constantly talking about bills or the children or the family. Find ways to be present. Learn when to say no and when to say yes. These are two important things because some of us don't know how to say no. This is a spiritual practice of mine that I need to get better at being able to say no because there's some things that don't fill you up. Those are things that oftentimes you should say no to, and you should say yes to more things that give you that passion and that life and that vibrancy.

How many of you know of things in your life that gives you passion? It fills you up. After you've done it, you just feel like it was the best day ever. How many of you know those things in your life? Saying yes to more of those things can help us be more present because when we're enjoying what we're doing now, we stay there rather than go into the past or the future.

Learning to take some Sabbath, some rest. Time to be present with God. Russ gave us a bookmark which you can still pick up on the welcome table on your way out of the serenity prayer. If you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're feeling like you're not being in the present that you're slipping into the past and the future, this is a prayer you can say to remind you of what's important and what's in front of you right now. Being able to rest throughout the day, taking a moment of quiet with God or yourself or your family or your friends. These are just a couple steps.

There's all kinds of studies and all kinds of advice on what it means to be mindful, what it means to be present and how to do that. You can also look. Google it. There's all kinds of stuff. These are three steps I think you can start with, just being able to be here now. Because really, when we slip into the past or the future we're just numbing ourselves to what we're going through right now and we're looking towards something that may not even happen. We're looking back at something that may never happen again. All we have is now. One of the ways that we can practice this and be mindful of it, we're going to have LeAnne come up for a time of abiding prayer to be mindful and present in this moment. We thought it'd be good after the sermon of being present to move into a moment where we actually practice it. Here you go.

LeAnn: Thank you for your message, Jordan. We are one still breath away, one still conscious breath away from being in the presence of God. No matter where your day is, what you're doing, one breath. Here I am Lord. I'd like you to join me in this time of abiding prayer. Abide, be with, settle down, center down with the great I am, the Holy One, the infinite one of the universe.

If you would like, open your hands, and let us begin by taking some conscious, slow, quiet and deep breaths. As you breathe, consider that all of us are created by the Holy One, our God, our redeemer, our strength. As God's creation, we are designed to be with God, and the infinite dwells in us. The infinite is in us, with us, through us and around us. We are never more than one conscious awakened breath away from God.

Scripture informs us that in him we live and move and have our being. In this sacred place, in this time, now the Holy One dwelling in our being is with us. God is always present. It is us oh Holy One who stray from you. We follow our thoughts and our anxieties into a future that does not exist. We carry the regrets and shame of times past and allow those thoughts to distract us from your presence that is here and now.

Moment by moment you call our awareness back to you to dwell in the deep knowing of your presence breath by breath and heartbeat by heartbeat. We open our hearts to you in this moment. Teach us over and over again to know your message that abides in us. The message that comes to us when we stop talking, breathe in your spirit and listen-listen into the stillness. Oh Holy One, quiet our minds. Help us to hear your ever present still small voice. We are grateful to you the Holy One for your unfailing presence and love. Amen.