Texting At Disney World – Be Alive In the Moment
God IS Near! Growing A Relationship with Our Creator
First Baptist Church Laurens
September 23, 2018
One of the most beloved characters in the Disney Pixar movie Up! is a Golden Retriever by the name of Dug. In the story, Dug’s original master had made a collar for him that allowed Dug’s thoughts to be translated into human speech. Thus everything that Dug thought was offered in English as he interacted with the other figures in the movie. In turn, Dug’s lines in the film are among the most remembered and humorous as we hear Dug say what we often assume a dog would say if they really could talk. One of the things that Dug is still remembered for from the film is how he often interrupted in mid sentence or right in the middle of an important moment by blurting out the word “Squirrel!” Whatever was going on, whatever anyone else was saying was quickly lost on Dug as his attention was immediately diverted to a movement or a sound that he assumed was a Squirrel. In many ways, it served as a perfect encapsulation of how prone Dug was to quickly being distracted.
If you own a dog like our family does then Dug in the movie Up! almost certainly reminds you of your own beloved canine. Any time our pooch catches a movement in his peripheral vision or hears the faintest sound, it captures his attention, demands his energy and causes him to want to run off in the direction of the noise or movement with full force and with utter disregard for where his focus had been.
Dug, the animated dog in UP!, is also a pretty good representation of not only our own dogs but also of us. For the truth is that distraction can be one of our greatest challenges no matter our age or our station in life. It is so easy for our thoughts, our attention and our energy to quickly and easily leave where we are or what we are to be concentrating on and end up somewhere else. Further, in our modern world filled with technology, this struggle, which has always been a part of the human experience, is even more challenging.
The title of today’s sermon Texting At Disney World speaks to a variety of experiences that most all of us are familiar with. We pay $100 a person to go to the Magic Kingdom for a day and then spend most of the day using our phones to text with and absorbed by the mundane activities of people who are not even there. Or, we set aside time to go out to dinner to a favorite restaurant with our spouse and children who then spend the bulk of the time playing games on their tablet or watching a movie rather than engaging in conversation. Or, we find ourselves enjoying an evening together with grandparents, aunts and uncles only for everyone present to be absorbed by what is on tv rather than focused on the great opportunity to be in the same room and catch up on what is happening in one another’s lives. In many ways, we live in the era of distraction while rarely fully alive to the place where we actually are.
This struggle is not only a societal and family systems issue, it is a spiritual issue as well. For, if our attention, our energy and our focus is somewhere other than the place we find ourselves occupying in the moment, our distraction also means that we are very unlikely to be fully aware of or alert to God’s involvement and presence in those same moments. It thus can become very challenging for God to get our attention, teach us or offer us incites into living where we are because while we are there physically, we are somewhere else mentally.
Believe it or not, but, this section of Philippians Chapter 1 that we read a few moments ago that was written in a by-gone day and that is from an era in time that occurred almost 2,000 years ago, is incredibly instructive and timely for this very moment. The words of Paul truly speak to this very issue as well as to our attempt to not only be fully alive to the moment but also fully alive to experiencing God’s presence in it as well.
Philippians is the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi while he was under arrest in Rome. Paul has been imprisoned for preaching the gospel. This moment seems to occur toward the end of his life and at a point when he had no idea when or even if he would ever be free again. While there, however, he does have the freedom to communicate with some of the early churches he had helped to found. He let them know that they remain in his thoughts, on his mind and in his prayers. Likewise, like a Father figure, he responds to questions they have, offers advice related to issues he has heard they are having, reminds them of what he had taught them while with them and seeks to encourage them in their own struggles to be faithful to their calling as early believers. One of the most tender and heart felt letters he writes is to the Philippians, a congregation that obviously had a special place in his heart. As he writes to them in Philippians 1, he says two things that I think have everything to do with this issue we are dealing with today of being present where we are.
First, Paul is very clear that our sacred times with each other and in special places don’t last forever. Paul understood and implies in what he writes here that he may never see the Philippians again. He would love to spend time with them again. But that day may not come.
What does this have to do with living in the moment you ask? Here is the point. Paul loved the Philippians and he cherished their special relationship. But, he understood, that no relationship goes on forever and there comes a day when we have to admit that those moments in each others are sacred at least in part because they have a beginning and an end.
No relationship goes on forever. None of us get all of the days we want with the people we love. Our days are fleeting with the people we care about most and in the places that give us the most joy. So when we have those times, we had better take full advantage of them. We had better be fully alive in them. Again, they will not be ours forever. Truth be told, they will be gone much quicker than we think.
The same is true about our days as it relates to God’s involvement in these days. If we won’t be with others forever, God will not be able to speak to us through them forever either. If we will not be able to enjoy special places forever then the lesson God has for us in those places and experiences will fade away too. Just as people and opportunities leave our lives how God can shape us through them is lost too quickly and without warning. So while we are there, we had better be fully there. This is our challenge.
The second thing Paul says as he writes to the Philippians is that sometimes the places that we quickly want to get beyond can also hold key opportunities for learning about and being used by God. Paul offers this sage advice in Philippians 1 as a direct result of his own experience in Rome. As we read earlier, he points out that his time in custody there had afforded him opportunities to share the faith he would not have otherwise had. For one, he had a captive audience in the guards who watched over him. For another, it had given a unique opportunity for him to bear witness to the faith with how he handled and showed hope in this most challenging of moments. This was not a wasted season in life. It was a productive time for witness, for unexpected relationships and for God to teach him.
I have become a big believer over the years that one of the problems we have with being fully alive in the moment is not only the distraction of technology but also the distraction that comes when we convince ourselves that we are living through unimportant days, unproductive activities or wasted moments. We live such a large portion of our lives just wanting to get through the day or past this hour so that we can get to those times that have we deemed “important” or “significant”. When we approach days or moments of days with this attitude, we are often not fully engaged in these same places. But, if we believe each day is a creation of God then each moment is an opportunity to be used by God, to see God and to learn from God. There is no wasted time.
This past week I had a meeting in Columbia on Thursday. One of the things I wasn’t looking forward to was the drive to Columbia and back. It was going to be two hours in the car that would be wasted space in my day. Then, on Wednesday, I learned that a fellow pastor friend in our area was going to the same meeting and he was going to drive right past Laurens to go to the very same function. When we realized this, he offered to pick me up so that we could ride together. Suddenly, his presence and our time together completely changed how I felt about those two hours in the car. After all, a trip with a friend is ten times more enjoyable than a trip alone.
If we are going to experience God’s presence even in the mundane, we must begin to look at life this way – even in the moments we are not all that enthusiastic about. God is in those moments with us. In turn, even the mundane days and less than exciting moments are occasions to grow, learn and be used because God is here on the journey with us in ways we cannot even image.
God is here, in these moments, in these days, in these relationships. The question is are we here fully and fully engaged? Amen.