For Lent this year Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church is focusing on these themes: mindfulness; humility; mercy; repentance; and mortality.
For mindfulness (a state of active, open attention on the present) we looked first at Luke 6:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version), which states as follows:
- “12 Now during those days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
- 17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.”
This passage starts with Jesus’ mindfulness on his night of prayer to God. He thought it necessary to be alone in a quiet place. There were no eyewitnesses to how he conducted that prayer or what he did, and afterwards Jesus apparently did not provide anyone with an accounting for how he spent his time in prayer that night. Moreover, Luke was not present for this event (Luke 1: 1-4).
I, therefore, tried to put myself in Jesus’ sandals. What would have been His concerns that night that might need prayer? I came up with at least the following:
- Jesus knew that the next day He would be speaking to “a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people” from a wide area. What should He say to that gathering?
- Jesus knew that the next day he would select 12 of his disciples to be apostles or leaders of his followers to go forth to heal and proclaim the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-6). Whom should he choose?
- Jesus also presumably knew that soon thereafter he would select another 70 or 72 disciples to go to towns to prepare for Jesus’ future visits, i.e., to be his “advance men.” (Luke 10:1) Whom should he choose?
- Jesus also presumably knew that with a growing number of followers, He would increasingly draw the attention of the authorities that did not like His actions and speeches. As a result, risks to his personal safety were escalating. How should he cope with that threat?
All of these issues required His thought and decision, and in prayer He undoubtedly shared all of this with God to obtain His guidance.
Thereafter He did select 12 disciples to be Apostles, including Judas Iscariot (Luke 6: 13-16). He delivered what has been called the Sermon on the Plain with its beatitudes and other words of wisdom (Luke 6: 20-49). He appointed 70 or 72 other disciples to be his advance men (Luke 10:1).
The other Scripture for consideration of mindfulness was Psalm 37: 1-9 (New Revised Standard Version),which provides the following:
- “Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
- Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
- Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.
- Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”
This passage emphasizes the things that an individual should do: trust in the Lord; take delight in the Lord; commit your way to the Lord; be still before the Lord; wait patiently for the Lord; do good; and be still. The Psalms passage also has these negative commands: do not fret (three times); do not be envious of wrongdoers; refrain from anger; and forsake wrath.
All of these actions help to create mindfulness. Be still. Do not fret. Do not be angry. Turn all over to the Lord.
He defined “mindfulness” as being “conscious of ourselves in the present moment, aware of the world around us in a heightened way, attuned to our body, our breathing, the beating of the heart.” To this end, he emphasized our need to be “in silence, . . . centering and emptying, or lying prone for a time, aware of their inhaling and exhaling, feeling the earth and their body against it.” Rev. Hart-Andersen added that the “opposite of mindfulness is distractedness. The world is plagued with that, brought on by the omnipresence of technology.”
“Jesus demonstrates a mindful approach to life. Repeatedly he withdraws from the pressures of teaching and preaching and healing to regroup spiritually. We may not have traditionally used this language, but when he does that, he’s practicing mindfulness.” The sermon continued, “The mindfulness Jesus practiced had at least two dimensions from which we can learn. First, Jesus knew that he had to slow his pace, even stop, to be able to find time to pray. . . . Second, Jesus sought out silence. . . . Jesus understood the lasting impact of silence; he was intentional about finding a quiet place.”
The sermon concluded with these words. “In the end, the cross toward which we are drawn stands silent against the noise of the world, inviting us to contemplate its awful victory. Its stark outline causes us to stop. It leaves us speechless. The cross silences all our pretentions and quiets the frenzy – and in its shadow we face our own deep need for God. The Way of the Cross this Lent invites us into the practice of mindfulness, the quiet awareness of each moment. In the stillness, if we are patient and not too distracted, we will find God.”