Monday Matters (May 31, 2021)

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
-Philippians 2:5-11

What do you think?

I came across a verse last week which I’d never noticed before: “Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37) Centuries ago, I don’t know what the psalmist had in mind when writing about what was worthless to watch. Maybe the psalmist was predicting contemporary entertainment, social media, 24/7 news channels. Your guess is as good as mine.

The verse caught my eye because there’s a lot floating around which is available to watch, but that is probably not worth watching. There’s a lot floating around that is not edifying, to borrow a New Testament phrase. It may be okay, but it doesn’t build up. It’s not constructive. What we watch, what we pay attention to, what we think about shapes who we are. Don’t just take my word for it. Consider various scriptures.

Proverbs 23:7 for instance: “For as (a person) thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount put it this way: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) St. Paul coached the early church to think about what they think about: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Those truths have been picked up by others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “You are what you think all day long.” William James said: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” Jean Yves Leloup, writing about monkey-mind as part of his discussion of the spiritual dynamic between Buddhism and Christianity wrote: “The ego is like a clever monkey, which can co-opt anything, even the most spiritual practices, so as to expand itself.” Even Winnie the Pooh got into the act: “Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?”

Think about what you think about. Think about what you watch. Is it worth it? Is it worthwhile? How is that shaping you? Maybe our culture’s focus on mindfulness has to do with setting an intention about where we give our interior life. We all have to decide what’s going to occupy our thinking. It’s easy to let that interior life be a place where resentments and grievances incubate. It’s easy to let anxiety dominate our thought waves. It’s easy to give into images that are not healthy or holy, let alone satiable. Toxicity abounds these days, easily accessible, at our fingertips. But we are not without options.

As St. Paul invited early Christians to focus on what is pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, we can always turn our thoughts to praise. Worship is really a matter of worth-ship. We can always turn our thoughts to thanksgiving, finding the healing power of an attitude of gratitude. We can always turn our thoughts to good intention towards others, even those who’ve done us dirt. Maybe St. Paul told us to pray without ceasing as an alternative to plotting revenge on the jerk who just cut us off in traffic. In all of life, we have the chance to turn our attention to the mind of Christ (see above). We have agency in this. And if we feel like we need help in this, we’re told that such help is available as well.

In Psalm 51, the psalmist asks God to create a clean heart, to renew a right spirit within us. As Jesus addressed the anxiety which comes our way, he reminded us to consider the lilies, the birds of the air, in other words, pay attention to something worth watching. (Matthew 6) As St. Paul contemplated the grace of God, he invited early Christians to a renewing of their minds.

Think about what you think about this week.

-Jay Sidebotham

Hybrid Church: A Way Forward

Join us for a conversation with the Rev. Tim Schenck
Wednesday, June 9 from 7-8pm EST

We’re all figuring out how to move forward, as we shift from the social distancing that has marked the past year and a half. What will the next chapter look like for our churches? How will we as church leaders navigate days ahead? What will we hold onto? What will we let go of? What have we learned? What will be different from the past? What will be the same?

We’re grateful that the Rev. Tim Schenck has agreed to be our presenter. He brings a distinctive mix of wit and wisdom to everything he does, and we’re excited that he will lead us when we meet on June 9.

RenewalWorks: Connect seeks to gather folks who want to continue to explore spiritual growth as priorities in their congregations. All are welcome.

Be sure to receive the Zoom invitation by joining the RenewalWorks: Connect email list. Click here to join.