Bread – Attention

October 19, 2012


Readings for Friday, October 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Acts 28:1-16; Luke 9:28-36; Psalms 16,17,22

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“Pay attention!” It is a command we all heard somewhere in our lives, as our mind wandered into our imaginations while something important was going on.

It is a command which we all could do a better job with in our Christian walk.

For example, my last Bread “Pits” had Noah in the fish. That would be nice, except it was supposed to be Jonah. Everyone knows that it was Jonah in the big fish and not Noah, but somehow I wasn’t paying attention. But neither was anyone else. Out of all the people who read this, only one person e-mailed me with the error. Maybe some or most of you were just being kind, but I daresay that, for most people, since they knew that it was supposed to be Jonah in the fish, they read right past what I had actually written (Noah) and substituted in their mind Jonah and kept on reading.

There are at least two lessons in today’s Scripture readings about paying attention. The first is in Acts as Luke reports Paul’s journey from Malta to Rome. When Paul arrived at Puteoli, it is reported simply that “there they found brothers.” Acts 28:14. How did they do that? It is not like they had an e-mail list and could send a text message. To find brothers it took looking, paying attention to the signs, talking to people and listening to what they were saying. In other words, it took paying attention to what they were seeing, hearing, and sensing. It probably took paying attention to how the Holy Spirit was guiding them. Now this may seem like a trivial example, but it is real world and points up a problem — don’t we pay the most attention when we are after something we want? How often do we really pay attention if it involves someone else, their needs, their life, and not ours? Do we really pay attention to the person in the elevator, who sits next to us in their cubicle at work, who is talking to the room but not to us particularly? Do we really read what we are reading, see what we are looking at, hear what is being said, or look upon events and other people with a sharp, discerning eye? Unless it involves us, probably not.

The more important example is what Peter did at the transfiguration of Christ (in today’s reading from Luke). Here he is in the middle of seeing Jesus, Moses, and Elijah together and his thought is immediately turned to setting up a place for them to separately stay, to hang out. The importance of the event was in the revelation of Jesus as God, standing with the Law and the Prophets in complete unity. However, rather than pay attention to the miracle, to absorb its grandeur and holiness, to let it encompass and infill him, Peter reacts practically, paying attention to his own concepts of what the miracle needed, offering his own take on the situation. How often do we not pay attention to the miracle around us, instead taking the opportunity to pursue our own agenda? How often have we ignored the splendor of the new morning, the rising of the sun, the cry of the new baby, the wisdom of the old, the existence of hope in dreadful circumstances, the word spoken to us by Scripture or by the teacher or preacher. These are miracles designed for us, that God has let us participate in, and we walk right past them daily, paying no attention at all.

So, will today be any different? I hope so, because Noah does not belong in the fish and because I don’t need to be so wrapped up in myself that I am not paying attention. What about you?

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*Today’s readings designate Ecclesiasticus, sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. This is not a book contained In the canonical Old Testament, but instead belongs to that body of work called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These books are accepted by some Christian denominations as useful, but are rejected by other denominations. I have not included this reading today because of these controversies. However, if you want to read it, the reference for today is Ecclus. 1:1-10, 18-27.

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© 2012 GBF

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