PASTOR’S CORNER: Mark Cress, Lead Pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, Liberal
According to a recent Harvard University study, you and I are not mentally present 47 percent of the time. Wow! That means that almost half of our days, weeks, months, etc. are spent checked out, regretting the past, rehearsing the future, mindlessly scrolling through our phones, or attempting to live in a nonexistent fantasy world.
In fact, just before sitting down to write this article, a staff member showed me an email that I had responded to that I have zero recollection of ever seeing, let alone responding to – Yikes! I was clearly not mentally present, responding to emails while on auto pilot. That seems like a recipe for disaster.
When reading through the Gospels, one of the things I admire most about Jesus is how He’s always present in the moment. In Mark 2:2-12, Jesus is present though interrupted by four men who are trying to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Because Jesus was fully present despite the interruption, the paralyzed man is forgiven and healed; the faith of the friends is affirmed; the concerns of the crowds are addressed, and people left amazed at the goodness of God!
In Mark 5:21-34, Jesus was on his way to heal a 12-year-old girl when He’s imposed upon by a woman with a sickness that has lasted for 12 years. She believed that if she could just touch the bottom of Jesus’ clothes that she would be healed. Sure enough, she follows through on her plan and is healed immediately. But Jesus, who is present even when imposed upon, wouldn’t let the healing pass without acknowledging the woman’s faith. As a result, we have the only place in all of scripture where Jesus calls a woman, “daughter”. Spoiler alert – the twelve year old girl ends up okay too!
In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem for His final Passover. As He makes his way through Jericho, a blind man begins to make a scene, shouting at the top of his lungs, trying to get Jesus’s attention. At first, those around him try to put a stop to his shouting, but this only makes him more determined. Eventually, Jesus hears, stops the traveling procession, and calls for the man. Jesus, who was present while traveling, present in what would appear to be an inconvenience, takes the time to love and serve Bartimaeus. As a result, Bartimaeus receives his sight and immediately becomes a Jesus follower.
Finally, in Luke 23:39-43 we see Jesus on the cross. Suffering in ways we can’t imagine, struggling to take his next breath. In the midst of this scene, there’s a criminal on a cross next to him who has the audacity to ask for salvation as his end draws near. Amazingly, Jesus, though intruded upon, assures the criminal that he will in fact be with Jesus in Paradise. Wow – I can’t even think straight when I stub my toe. Yet here, Jesus, present though crucified, is offering salvation.
Throughout these stories and so many like them, there are some trends that appear in the life of Jesus that help us see how to be mentally where our feet are physically:
• Jesus is a single-tasker. He dealt with each situation one at a time, as they came. It’s like he understands that things are done best when they have his full attention.
• Jesus is never in a hurry. He was never too busy to love and serve those in need. What would it look like to add the margin necessary to really love those around us?
• Jesus made people the priority. Though I characterized the people in the stories above as interruptions, impositions, inconveniences, or intrusions, Jesus never did, and never will.
• Jesus didn’t waste time worriedly rehashing the past or anxiously rehearsing the future. Jesus knew that anxiety and worry will rob us.
Right now is a precious gift from God that many are wastefully wishing away. How about you? Are you present?