In my sermon today in the series “Be the Message” I drew on the wisdom of Dallas Willard and his work on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the “attitudes that ought to be” (or Beatitudes). Willard said that living a good life, or being a good person, is learning to live “interactively with God”. He suggests that this is what Jesus is speaking about in his famous sermon when he describes persons who are “blessed.” Jesus does this by offering a quite unlikely list of 8 different characteristics: poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted (for righteousness sake). Those who live in this way are “blessed” or content because they are in tune with the things of God, the ways of God, and the will of God. They are living “interactively” with God.
That may seem to us a high bar of a goal. Perhaps even unattainable in our own merit, and therefore unreachable. But it’s the life that Jesus modeled, and the life that he calls us toward. A friend, having listened to the sermon, commented that living interactively with God today might be thought of as having a 24/7 FaceTime encounter with God.Have you ever FaceTimed with someone? It’s a video technology available to us today through smart phones. We can place a video call to someone and see their face even as we share a conversation. Our family has used this technology to FaceTime our son into family events and happenings he would not otherwise have been able to join, because he lives miles and states away. Through the wonder of technology there he is – in the midst of us, participating face to face.
That’s what God hopes for our relationship. An ongoing, participatory, face to face engagement – interactive and conversational. God doesn’t want to be an after thought or an “on occasion” thought. God desires a present and interactive place in our lives. Which means we are listening, as well as watching for the communicative means by which God interacts with us.
Let me break that last sentence down. In truly interactive communication persons are utilizing multiple senses. We are not just hearing what may be said, we are also watching to see how the communicator’s body language, non-verbals, tone and personal presentation are supporting (or not supporting) their words. When it comes to our interactivity with God we are encouraged to use all our senses. What is God showing us through the events of the day? What is God saying to us through the Word, or through another person? How is God, in Christ, within us and nudging us to feel God’s message?
To live interactively with God may mean that I need to give more focus to my listening. It may mean that I need to minimize some of the other that I listen to. It may mean that I need to establish new priorities when it comes to that which has influence over my life. I’m not sure what it means for you. But I invite you to think about that and act accordingly.
I can remember a time when our children were little. I don’t recall which child it was who did this, but I remember the event. Our tradition was that I spent Monday’s with the kids when they were preschool age. (Monday being my day off). We called it “fun day with daddy”. But when you are a pastor it’s hard to have a true day off, and often ministry things will creep into a Monday. On one such occasion, as my attention was diverted to a ministry need, and turned away from the child in my supervision they came up, crawled onto my lap, took my face in their hands and looked me in the eye. I had not been living interactively with them in that moment, and they were determined to do something about it. They got my attention.
I want you to imagine, for a moment, in the hectic pace of your living, the Lord God taking your face in hand and redirecting your attention – to see what God sees and wants you to see. That’s living interactively with God.