- Being All There
- Matthew 22: 34-40
- Bill Couch April 19, 2015
Building Better Relationships
Being All There
This morning we continue with our series entitled “Bridges—Building Better Relationships.” We are looking at what the Bible has to say about building relationships in all areas of our lives: marriage, parent-child, friends, co-workers, neighbors and with God. Last week Don spoke about being intentional in our relationships. Good relationships don’t just happen they take some focused effort. Today we are going to look at the importance of being all there in our relationships.
God wants us to be all there in our relationship with him. In fact Jesus said it is the greatest commandment. Let’s listen to his conversation with a religious leader who was hoping to trap him with a profound question.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Where are you right now? Obviously in the sanctuary of LakeRidge UMC! But are you fully here—is all of you here? Have your thoughts drifted off into the future? Are you thinking about where to have lunch or making your “to do” list for next week? Maybe they have drifted off into the past—perhaps you are thinking about something you said in haste or anger on the way to church this morning. You are full of regret and you are replaying the scene in your mind. Just the mere suggestion of those things may have caused your mind to go somewhere else—somewhere in the future or in the past. Are you all here? Are you totally aware of what is happening right here, right now? Are you fully in this moment? It is a challenge for most of us to be totally in the moment. Let’s do a little exercise to help us be all here. Close your eyes for a moment. In a moment I will ask you to take three deep breaths and focus on your breathing and nothing else. Where do you feel the breath? In your nose? Your chest? Your abdomen? Feel the air coming in and going out. Now take 3 deep breaths. Listen. What do you hear in this room right now? What do you feel? Become aware of the seat and the back and the floor—feel the contact. What is the temperature of your skin? Now take 3 more deep breaths and focus on your breathing. Now open your eyes. Just enjoy this moment of awareness. Now, are you still here? See if you can stay focused on right here, right now for the rest of our worship time. If you drift off, gently pull yourself back into the moment and be all here as much as you can.
Jesus quoted an Old Testament passage that uses the word “all” three times. He said the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind.” It has been awhile since I did a word study on heart and soul and mind. The scholars are all over the board trying to define these three words. Some scholars define each one as separate things. But the most reputable scholars said that these words are frequently used interchangeably in the Bible. In fact in one Bible dictionary I looked up the word “mind”—it said, “See heart”! The Bible considers us an integrated whole—body, mind and spirit are all interconnected. What does it mean to love God with our all our heart, all our soul and all our mind? It means to love God with our whole self—with everything we got!
In our relationship with God we need to be all there. Prayer is one of the ways in which we can be all there with God. Prayer is not just a mental exercise. It involves our whole being. Did you know that prayer affects your physical body? Rob Moll in his book, What Your Body Knows about God says:
God has so designed our bodies that spiritual disciplines like prayer change us down to our very cells to better commune with him…How we pray can have very physical effects. Shorter prayers in which we make requests to God…go undetected by a brain scan. This doesn’t mean they don’t work or they are not valuable. But it may encourage you toward deeper, longer prayer when you learn that twelve minutes of attentive and focused prayer every day for eight weeks changes the brain significantly enough that it can be measured in a brain scan. Prayer strengthens areas of the brain involved in social interaction, increasing our sense of compassion. It reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. Spirit and body are intimately intertwined—our bodies are designed to commune with God. (pages 15 & 16)
Attentive prayer means focusing totally on God. Expressing praise and gratitude are ways to focus on God. Sitting in silence with an awareness of God’s presence and just waiting and listening will have profound effects on our whole being—including our bodies. Peace and a sense of well being will flow into us and through us. Are you all there with God when you pray? This kind of prayer will enable you to abide in God’s presence throughout the day as you go about your work and activities.
Loving God with our whole being enables us to love ourselves. Jesus said the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Before we can love our neighbors we have to love our selves. In order to love ourselves we have to experience God’s unconditional love and know that we are fully accepted by our Creator just as we are. We receive his love and then we love him in return. Then we can love ourselves. One of the ways we can practice loving ourselves is by being all there with ourselves. It means being fully in the present moment. Shutting down our thoughts and just being aware of the present moment allows us to be more open to God. Have you ever been driving or riding in a car and realize that you have gone for miles and have not noticed a thing? You have been so absorbed in your thoughts that you have not been in the present moment aware of what is all around you. When we “check out” into our thoughts our mind tends to go to one of three places: the past, the future, or the imagination. None of those places is real. The past is gone. The future is not yet. And imagination is just that—something imaginary. We waste so much time regretting the past or living in past glories. We waste so much time worrying about the future and what might happen. Spending time in the past or the future makes us feel constantly dissatisfied, uneasy. We need to claim God’s forgiveness for our past and trust our future to him so that we can be fully here now. Right here, right now is the only place that is real and where we are most alive!
Right now is the only place where we can experience God. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) That means that God is eternal. For God every moment is now. That means that the only place you can encounter God is right now. When we stop dwelling on the past or being obsessed with the future, we allow our minds to rest. Ordinarily our mind does not rest. Even at night, it is active processing the day through dreams. We know our bodies need rest, but so does our mind. Where it finds rest is in the present moment. It can rest by just being aware that God is enough and that God is with us right now regardless of what is going on in our lives. We are free to be fully where we are—we can listen, smell, feel, taste, see and enjoy where we are. This is one of the ways that we love ourselves. Our Creator built within the fabric of the universe and of our lives the gift of rest. Sleep at night and times for being still and letting our minds rest. The Sabbath was a gift from God to let us cease from performing and doing and just to be fully with God and with ourselves and with others. “Be still and know that I am God.” Love God by fully focusing on him. Love yourself by being fully in the moment with him—receiving his love and aware of only the now.
When we are focused on God and letting our minds rest, then we are also freed up to be fully with another person. Have you ever been listening to someone and your mind is drifting off to other thoughts and places and you are really not listening? Have you ever been listening to someone and just thinking about what you are going to say next? It is so difficult to be fully in the moment and fully engaged with another person. There are so many distractions even within our own minds. One of the greatest gifts of love that we can give to another person is the gift of our undivided attention. We can’t be all there when we are distracted by technology. It is amazing what we miss when we are focused on a little screen. So let’s focus on the big screen for a moment and see what we may be missing.
VIDEO: LOOK UP
Margaret and I were in Boston for a conference last week. On Saturday morning we were looking out our hotel window enjoying a beautiful view of the bay, listening to the sea gulls and just being in the moment. I looked across the inlet and saw a couple on a bench. The guy stood up and then got down on one knee and opened a ring box. It was a marriage proposal, just like in the video. Margaret quickly got her phone and took this picture and also a video. We went down to where the couple was and apologized for interrupting a sacred moment. We told them we had taken a picture and video and asked if they would like to have them. They of course were thrilled to have this moment captured on film. I told them I was a United Methodist Pastor and asked if I say a blessing over them. What a special moment we would have missed if we had not been looking up.
How often do we miss sacred moments because we are so distracted by our thoughts and by technology? How often do we miss connecting with the people we love because we are not fully in the moment? Last week in a men’s group that I am involved in, one of the guys shared about how he was watching TV the night before. His young daughter came in with a game under her arm. “Daddy, will you play a game with me?” He was all involved in the TV show and a little reluctant to say yes, but he did. In a few moments they were on the floor, fully engaged in the game and each other—laughing and having a great time—he totally forgot about the show he was watching. All because he looked up and seized the moment.
Jesus saw interruptions to his plans as sacred moments. He was on a very important mission one day. He was on his way to heal the twelve year old daughter of one of the religious leaders. As he walked along, he felt power leave his body. He was in the present moment and aware. He asked, “Who touched me?” The disciples said, “What do you mean? There is a huge crowd around you—lots of people are touching you.” But Jesus knew this was beyond a common brushing against someone. A woman came trembling out of the crowd and fell at his feet. Through her tears she explained that she had a blood hemorrhage for twelve years and had suffered greatly. She heard about Jesus and thought, “If I can just touch the hem of his garment, I can be healed.” She did not feel worthy to ask for healing. To touch the hem of his garment meant that she was crawling on the ground. Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Jesus was fully focused on this woman. She was a sacred interruption. He gave her his undivided attention. Not only was she healed physically, she was healed emotionally and spiritually because the King of kings called her his daughter. Jesus was always in the moment and fully engaged with his Father and with those around him. He gave each person he was with his undivided attention. It was one way he let each person know how much he loved him/her.
Love God with your whole being. Experience him fully in the now. Let his love fill you so that you can rest in his love and love yourself. Then look up and give the person in front of you your undivided attention. As you live more and more in the present moment with God, your body, you soul, your mind and your heart will become one—and you will be made whole. Ask yourself throughout this day: “Am I all here right now?” And in the now you will experience God!