Text: Luke 12: 29-31
29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his[a] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Last week you might have noticed we were having a few issues with this monitor on the right, and I am hoping that I might have figured out what was going on. It seems there may have actually been two different problems; the first was simply a bad cable and I replaced that and then the picture came back…but just for a little while. You may remember last week that it would come on, and then go off again. This intermittent problem was a little more difficult to sleuth out, but I think I may have identified the source of the problem. While I was working on the connections, I put a receiver box that the new cable I replaced plugs into on top of that speaker. I think it is likely that the magnets in the speaker were creating interference of the signal and so the picture would come on for a time, and then it would lose its connection because of the interference. Nothing had changed physically, all the wires were still connected in the same way; but the signal was lost.
I want you to think about that for a minute. Nothing changed physically, but the connection was lost. Have you ever felt that way about God? Does it ever feel like God just goes away? For awhile you feel like you are close to God, connected to the Divine and then one day you wake up and realize the connection is gone, but you’re not sure when it went away; has that ever happened to you? There may have been a time when you were connected to God, but now the connection is gone. When that happens I’m thinking there may be interference with the signal.
I can imagine what some of you might be thinking about right now. What in the world am I talking about…God is always with us, God’s promise is that God is always near. There can’t be any interference with the signal. And I would tell you that you are right about that…the signal is always transmitting and God is always trying to be present with us. The question is whether or not we are in a position to receive or not. The problem with the monitor was not that the signal quit transmitting; the problem was the reception of the signal was interrupted. There is a difference between a signal being transmitted and a signal being received. And when you think about it in those terms, one part of the equation is up to God, that is the transmitting, and the other part of the equation, the receiving part, is up to us.
So what causes interference if we desire a connection with the Divine?
This is the question that I believe has plagued humanity almost from the dawn of time. And in all that time, I’m not sure the answers have changed all that much. I think part of what Jesus was trying to say in the text I read a few minutes ago is that worry about the physical will only hold you back. Jesus said to focus first on the kingdom of God and the physical will take care of itself. As I consider the situation further, I believe we can identify a couple of very specific things which can cause interference with our ability to receive clear signals from God.
One big one is fear or anxiety. Another is guilt or depression. If we could find a way to overcome these two obstacles, I believe our relationship with God would improve drastically. What’s more, this is not a new idea.
We have already explored a little bit about what Jesus had to say on this topic. The text I read was from Luke; it appears also in Matthew with slightly different details.
There are other places in the New Testament where Jesus eludes to this kind of understanding; this idea that we can actually interfere with our own ability to connect with God. Jesus spoke of asking and seeking and finding…he also stilled a storm; that could have been a physical storm or the storm of anxiety, or both. Jesus also spoke about losing your life to find it; and sometimes when we give up anxiety and fear and guilt and depression it might feel like we are losing our lives, but as we do, we will also find them.
This idea of being able to receive what the Divine Spirit is transmitting is really the key to spirituality. The Native Americans would go into a smoke lodge in an attempt to heighten their ability to receive this spiritual transmission. I know the Australians have an age old custom of going on a “walkabout” in order to clear their minds and open the pathways to receive a clear signal from God. Of course many of the eastern religions include specific times for meditation that are designed, once again to clear the mind of all interference and allow the Divine to be clearly received.
What ever method we might discover is beneficial, I still think the basic idea of every custom and every ritual is simply to not put any of our energy into fear or anxiety or guilt or feeling bad, but rather to focus on what is happening now and to find positive ways to interpret what is happening now and to find ways to feel good about what is happening now.
Consider this quote from Lao Tzu;
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Here is yet another example of how ancient this idea truly is and how universal the concept is as well. Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher credited with being the author of the Tao te Ching. The Tao may be the oldest sacred text on the planet that we actually have a copy of and the Tao de Ching predates Jesus by at least 500 years, maybe more and predates our modern Bible by as much as 1,000 years. It is the philosophy of Lao Tzu that is thought to have formed the basis for much of what Confucius taught and is considered to be the central hub of philosophy of many of the eastern religions.
So what I am trying to communicate here is that we have a long history as humanity of trying to find ways to connect with God. For Lao Tzu, one of those key elements was to experience peace and live in the present moment. That is a message made popular by a contemporary author, Eckart Tolle, who wrote a New York Times best seller, “The Power of Now” and a follow-up best seller, “A New Earth”. Both books are excellent by the way.
But there is something else in Lao Tzu message that I think could be overlooked unless we read it very carefully. If you look at the text, there is a strong link between how you feel, and what you are thinking about. In other words, when you think about your past, and you feel guilty or upset or angry or you are feeling depressed, then you are living in the past. When you feel anxious or worried or are nervous about tomorrow or next week, you are living in the future. If you want to experience the peace that Jesus talked about, the peace the goes beyond our ability to understand, then you must live in the now, or as Lao Tzu says, live in the present.
We may not realize it, but we have an emotional guidance system built into each and every one of us. This emotional guidance system has the ability to sound an alarm if the signal with the Divine transmission is about to get interrupted. It is really this simple; if you are feeling good, if you are at peace, then you are fully connected to the Divine. You are hearing God, and God is hearing you.
But when you begin to feel bad, for whatever reason it may be, that is an emotional alarm that the signal is in danger of being interfered with. You run the risk of creating so much interference that the connection to God will be lost. And this is something that we do to ourselves; God has nothing to do with it.
Oh, but I’m fully justified in feeling bad, I hear you say. You wouldn’t believe what happened to me, or I just lost my job, or I just received a bad medical diagnosis or this catastrophe or that catastrophe and I have every right to feel bad. I have a right to feel bad and I’m going to do it!
And you are welcome to feel bad. Just bear in mind that when you do, the interference that those bad feelings create have the potential to create interference and the signal will be lost. Not only that, your feeling bad will generally will not bring your job back or change the medical diagnosis. As a matter of fact, the only person the feeling bad impacts is you, and only you. And it doesn’t change what is.
One of the best ways that I know of to keep feeling good is to keep busy serving others. If you stay focused on what you can do for others, for the most part, you will feel good about what you do. If you counter bad news personally with finding something nice to do for someone else, you will feel better; even about the bad news. Look again at what Jesus says:
Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat, or drink or wear or what we might need in the future. Instead worry about the kingdom of God, first, and the rest will take care of itself. And how do we seek first the kingdom of God? By serving others and feeling good about what we are doing. So that is the choice that each of us gets to make every day in every moment; we can choose to serve others and we can choose to feel good, or we can choose to feel bad. When we feel bad the signal is lost and our Divine connection is nowhere to be found.
And that is food for thought. So go in peace and go with God and feel good in the present moment. Amen.