May 14, 2017 – Membership to Discipleship Week 4 – Presence

Matthew 6:19-34

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Oh, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Paul McCartney said he had the idea for the song “Let It Be” after he had a dream about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles (“the White Album”) in 1968. The phrase has at times been used as a reference to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, McCartney explained that his mother – who died of cancer when he was fourteen – was the inspiration for the “Mother Mary” lyric.  He later said: “It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing ‘Let It Be’.” He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him, “It will be all right, just let it be.” When asked if the song referred to the Virgin Mary, McCartney has typically answered the question by assuring his fans that they can interpret the song however they like [Source: Wikipedia.com.]

As I started to plan for today, I found myself wondering about the ministry of presence – not the kind you open on special holidays but of being fully aware and focused on the person or task at hand.  While pondering this, I also realized that considering this is Mother’s Day, I have noticed that mothers in general have an uncanny ability to bestow tidbits of wisdom at just the right time.  I mentioned last week that at one point in my career I experienced a layoff and was considering taking a job at a 40% pay cut. I was looking for council and called my mother. She was the one who pointed out the benefits of the job rather than the negatives which I was harping on. This was clearly a career-step backwards, yet it would allow me to have precious time and presence with my family that I was missing.  In other words, she helped me get my priorities in order. She understood the need to be fully present with my family and with God.

In today’s world there is an art known as multi-tasking and mothers in particular have managed to master this art. We celebrate this ability with much ado. We seem to get frustrated with others who are single-task minded.   I find myself in automatic multi-tasking mode even before the day officially begins, because for me a day does not start until AFTER the first cup of coffee! While it’s brewing (in a Kuireg no less) I am unloading the dishwasher, or sweeping the kitchen floor, or completing the numerous other things I simply didn’t take time to do before bed the night before.  To me it seems more efficient to not waste that 2 minute timeframe!

Yet that is my quiet time of day. I realize that is not the case for everyone, especially those of you who have young ones because they often get up long before we want them to!  We get so exhausted with keeping everything up and running that when there is a quiet moment we simply want to sleep because our bodies are craving rest. At this phase of my life I am awake before the household and I know it’s time to get up when the to-do list starts flooding my waking thoughts.  It seems we feel the need to measure our worth by how busy we are, and it comes at a cost.  Stress levels are at an all-time high and continue to rise. This never-ending pace comes at a cost – a cost to our health, our families, and ultimately our church.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ continues to be prioritized down the to-do list until there is no time or attention left.

Yet Jesus continues to call us into a ministry of presence. Simply being together as a body of Christ’s followers can do a lot for our overall health.  While society continues to promote virtual friendships and connections, we are making real ones when we come together to worship God and care for one another. Jesus recognized the need for all of us to be in community together. It is still true that there is power and strength in numbers.

Being fully present with others requires that we set aside our mind-numbing pace, our multi-task list of to-dos, and to truly listen to one another and to that still small voice. Jesus is calling us to set aside our worries, our fears, our concerns for what lies ahead, and to just take a moment to just be. Be present with each other. Be present with your church family. Be present in the love that Jesus pours out on all of us.

I remember visiting a local restaurant and I saw what I believed to be a mother and her young daughter having lunch together.  During the 45-minutes to an hour we were there, this mother stayed on her phone the entire time. She was scrolling, texting, searching – all while her daughter was occasionally trying to get her attention only to finally give up.  I found this to be a sad reality.   I am fairly sure this mother would count the time spent at lunch as time with her daughter, but her presence was clearly elsewhere.

How are we at being fully present? Take a look at this video and see if this resonates with you just a bit. [Play video]  Does anyone besides my want that pepper shaker???  There is some truth to our disconnect from one another.  Being fully present begins with reconnecting with our families, reconnecting with our surroundings, reconnecting with Jesus Christ.

Today is Mother’s Day – a perfect excuse to call your mother! Some of us are blessed to have our mothers still with us while others perhaps feel her absence today – wishing we had more time with Mom.  Some have no recollection of his/her mother and others continue to suffer from a bad relationship with their mothers.  We come from all walks of life, and on days like today we may be anywhere on the spectrum of feelings.  Wherever you are, know that the love of Jesus Christ is real and present with you.  Whether you have no memory of your mother or she was the next thing to a saint, Jesus is present with you.  Allowing ourselves to experience the presence of the Holy One will become our greatest joy.  Finding that calm center will follow you even in the chaos of everyday life.

So, let’s celebrate Mom today if you can.  When Jesus instructed us to love God and love our neighbors, I believe this includes the caveat to honor our fathers and mothers.  Be present with one another and realize that our time with our families is sacred and special. Our time spent in worship together honors God and our need to be fully present with one another.  I wanted to close with reading again a portion of scripture from Matthew that is my absolute favorite scripture.  Some of us are worriers. We want to cling to our worry like a warm blanket.  Yet Jesus teaches us to let our fears go and remember who we are and whose we are.  [Matthew 6:25-34] Amen.

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