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Transcending our terrors – Epiphany 8A

Matthew 6:24-34

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

It was Robert Johnson, that great explorer of the inner realms of the mind, who wrote, “In the Dark Night of the Soul, it is always three a.m.!”  If midnight is known as the witching hour, then three a.m. must sure be the worrying hour?

I lie awake and my mind seems like one of those old tractor feed printers spewing out reams and reams of thoughts onto the floor of my mind.  Every page filled with lines of data from the screaming print head, Zzzzzt, Zzzzzt, Zzzzzt.

In the worrying hour with the pile of messy thoughts littering my mind, I run endless, “What if?” scenarios. “I will say, she will say, he will say, then this, then that”. A proliferation of scripted chaos that never happens but which keeps me awake and sweating nonetheless.

Mark Twain understood this when he said, “I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened”

Jesus is putting his finger right on the problem when he says, “No one  can serve two masters”

What the non-dual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and others have discovered in the past decade was already clearly spelled out by Jesus.  You can only live in one moment and one reality at a time.  Yes, of course we are able to multi-task. That is what living in the cyber world demands, all the more reason to clearly distinguish between multi-tasking and divided thinking.  Jesus is clear, we can only live in one reality at a time.  To try and straddle multi-realities is the way to insanity.

The choice is simple. Either God is in charge,  (The King is really the king of the kingdom) or God is not in charge and we are we are merely flotsam on a tsunamic sea of chaos.

For all the good our pre-frontal lobe in the brain does by giving us awareness and consciousness, at another level it requires careful management as to where we allow our consciousness to settle.  The narrative of Peter walking on the storm comes to mind.  As long as Peter is conscious of Jesus calling him to come, Peter is able to tread on the chaos and walk on water. The moment, however, that he shifts his awareness from Jesus to the waves beneath his feet, he begins to drown.

I wish I could tell you that this is simply a matter of choosing where to look in every moment. It is not that simple.  I can be confidently wave walking in one moment and drowning the next.  I may not  even realise the tipping point when fear overwhelms my focus and the consciousness of chaos overwhelms my confidence in God.

I have however discovered an angle which might help.

It revolves around reminding myself of my origins.  Materialism, with its high priests constantly incant that we are mere accidents of the “selfish gene” and the best we can do is accumulate wealth and power so as to better preserve our genetic progeny above the hordes of losers.

That is not what Jesus taught.  If I follow Jesus carefully and caringly I discover a power that transcends my will to power and is even able to transform my genetic selfishness.  It is called compassion.  The ability to feel with another and to live and act so as to bless the lives of those around me.  That transcendence and transformation is the fruit of recognizing  that I am not a lone survivor on a sea of chaos.  Rather, I am a child of a heavenly parent who heads a family in which every other being; human, animal, plant, and rock are my siblings and supporters. Sparrows and Lilies are my encouragement to celebrate our unity,to conserve our habitat, and to worry not about my individual survival, but rather about the blessing and benefit of the whole family.  It is an instant cure to neurotic nights of terror regarding my individual survival.

Jesus said it far better than I can, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you

Allow me to translate and contextually update:

Strive after God’s reign and God’s integrated life and everything you need will appear

It’s only way to power off your three a.m. panic printer. Zzzzt, Zzzzt, Zzzzt……zzzzzzzzzzzzz….. Sleep well!

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Author:

Fascinated by words, sounds, and scenes. Intrigued by people and their states of mind. I am a Pastoral Counsellor, Conflict Mediator and Newspaper Columnist.

13 thoughts on “Transcending our terrors – Epiphany 8A

    1. Hi Jen

      Thanks for visiting the Listening Hermit. Unfortunately I don’t know who painted the image. I got it off Google images. It resembles a wood painting I bought in 2009 at the shrine of St Thomas in Chennai in India. It is a very popular image there.
      Glad that it drew you.

      Peter

  1. This was an awesome reflection upon the scriptural text. I especially liked the idea that life is a sea of chaos and no matter how diligent we try to be, we will have moments of distraction where we find ourselves sinking. Your answer, however, is awesome. Learning to focus on the needs of others, overcoming this inherent propensity to selfishness by being conscious of more than my own needs, is a huge step in the right direction.

    Thank you so much for this blog. It has touched my heart. I am glad that I’ve discovered you blog and I will certainly stop by often!

    blessings!

    1. Hi Christipher,

      Thanks for visiting the Listening Hermit and for your encouraging comments.
      All the best for navigating the sea of chaos!

      Peter Woods

    1. Hi Helen

      Thanks for visiting The Listening Hermit. I trust your life is unfolding without too much sinking?

      Blessings

      Peter

  2. Nice work – glad to find your site. Love Daniel Seigel’s “hand model” describing the limbic system and its relationship with the pre-frontal cortex. It really helps see how we’re hard wired to become distracted and anxious and afraid. It’s tough overcoming that – but the good news is: We Can!

    1. Hey Tim,

      Thanks for visiting The Listening Hermit and THANK YOU for referencing Daniel Seigel’s “hand model”. I totally enjoyed the YouTube clip and it has given me a very helpful angle to work in this field.
      Bless you
      Peter

  3. Thanks for your blog. I have enjoyed following it for several months.
    You have often inspired my sermon writing. Your “translation” and updating of Jesus’
    teaching put the frosting on the cake for me this week.
    Carin+

    1. Dear Carin
      Thank you for visiting The Listening Hermit and for browsing back several times.
      It is 6.14am here in Africa and in a couple of hours I will preach these ideas.
      Pray for me and thanks for the encouragement
      Peter

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