Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pay Attention!

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Matthew 6: 34 - "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now..."

We live in very anxious times. It seems clear that the old phrase - "God is in his heaven and all is right with the world." - no longer rings true, if it ever did. There is so much that is wrong in this world, so much evil, so much death and destruction, so much that can produce in us, if we are paying attention, a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to pay attention, to focus on what God is doing right now.

That isn't easy and it certainly doesn't mean that we should ignore all the anxiety-producing events in the world. A colleague once rewrote the words of an old Gospel hymn. He suggested that when we turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face, the things of earth will not grow strangely dim, but will be clearly see, in the light of his glory and grace. When our focus is on what God is doing, we see the world in a new way, we see in lots of places, in what Celtic Christians call thin places, signs of God working, and working through people like you and me. We see God at work and we are not anxious.

We can see it Myanmar, not in the intransigence of the generals, but in the persistence of those who want to help. How much easier it would have been for them to have walked away when the generals said, "We don't need your help." And that refusal to walk away, that persistence, is a sign that God is at work.

Jesus could have walked away from us. During what we now call Holy Week, Jesus lamented over Jerusalem - "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing." How easy it would have been for him to have taken all those refusals and betrayals and denials as clear indications that we weren't worth loving and saving. But he didn't.

If we can but pay attention to what God is doing right now - in Myanmar, in China, in our own lives - we can let anxiety go and trust God to be God.