The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Note: Due to technical difficulties, this week’s sermon is not available as an audio file

“Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself.”

Anxiety…worry…from time to time all of us experience it. Sure, we may not all worry about the same things, nor to the same extent, but at one time or another every single one of us has wrestled with the demon of worry.

We worry about finances. We worry about our health, about school, about our job, and about the future. We worry about the opinions others have of us and about how the decisions we have made in the past will affect our future.

Sometimes our worries are legitimate and may actually encourage us to take constructive action. Yet as we know, most of the time our worries only cause us to be filled with anxiety and fear, robbing us of the enjoyment of life and peace of mind.

There have been countless studies and tests that all point to “worrying” as a major cause of stress related illnesses. As a matter of fact, some studies report that approximately 75% of all doctor visits today are directly related to anxiety and worry.

Perhaps this is why Jesus preaches so adamantly against it. In today’s gospel, Jesus points out that if God provides for the grass of the fields and beautiful clothing for the flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, just think how much more God will provide for you and me.

Jesus then reminds us not to worry about food, water, and clothing, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

I think it’s important for us to be clear about what Jesus is NOT saying in this passage. He is NOT saying that if we stop worrying and place our faith in God that nothing bad will ever happen to us; and that we will be financially wealthy beyond our wildest dreams.

As we know, some of the most devout followers of Christ were not financially well off. Instead, they faced hardships, persecutions; and many were even killed for their faith.

What Jesus IS asking us to do in this passage: is to “seek the kingdom of God.” In other words, Jesus is telling us to reorder the priorities of our lives, by placing God at the very center.

Not to simply associate God as someone we pay homage to on Sundays, and then go about the rest of our week; but to recognize God’s presence in each moment of our lives.

In ancient times, a disciple was someone who had chosen to be with his rabbi or teacher as much as possible in order to soak up everything he could from him. So, a good disciple would do his very best to be around his rabbi at all times.

Some disciples would actually compete with one another to be with the rabbi when he was fixing meals, going for a walk, taking a nap, or even doing his daily chores. It really didn’t matter what he was doing, the disciples just wanted to be close to their rabbi.

Biblical scholar Ray Van der Laan points out that the 1st Century Jews had a blessing that beautifully expressed the commitment of a disciple to stay in the presence of the one he followed: “May you always be covered by the dust of your rabbi.” In other words, “may you follow your rabbi so closely that the dust his feet kicks up completely covers you.”

This is what seeking the Kingdom of God is all about: to be completely covered by the dust of God by recognizing His Divine presence in every moment of our lives.

In his book entitled “The sacrament of the present moment,” author Jean Pierre de Caussade writes, “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond [our] wildest dreams, but [we] will only enjoy them to the extent of [our] faith and love…To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith.”

To put it another way: in the same way that every breath of air gives life to our body, every moment in time, if we learn to let it, can give life to our soul.

This is not to say that Jesus wants us to simply sit around and do nothing. After all, spending the day covered in the dust of God, does not usually involve doing anything special or unique. Most of the time, it involves learning to do what we already do, but in a new way – by recognizing that the living Christ is present in each and every moment of our lives.

Jesus was keenly aware of how anxiety and worry not only make our lives emotionally unpleasant, but more importantly how they can distract us from God’s very presence in our lives.

Whether we realize it or not, God is present in every moment, offering to partner with us in whatever we face. Jesus knew that the failure to embrace the “sacrament of the present moment” would only keep us from being fully present to God, right here and right now.

Not because we consciously say no to God, but because we can become consumed with the future.

However, as I have recently been reminded, there is no guarantee that we will live to be 90, 100 or even another week. Each moment we have is a precious gift from God. Of course we must continue to plan for the future, but the only time we really have is right now, this very moment.

Therefore, if we are only living for tomorrow (or for some event in the future), we are not really living at all. Or as Jesus puts it: “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself.”

What Jesus seems to be telling us in today’s gospel is this: “Live one day at a time, and live it well. Put all you have into each day’s opportunities and challenges. After all, the past and the future are out of your control.” 

As the old saying goes: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift from God. That’s why they call it the present.”

Today, may we discover the sacrament of the present moment. Today, may we be completely covered by the dust of God. And today may we remember the words of our Lord Jesus, “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself.”

9/16/12
Matthew 6:24-34