Hi. I’m Matt. We’re new here. Just a few weeks ago my family and I were living six hours away busy packing and preparing and wondering what our new lives in Hilton Head would be like. For the record, it’s great. But there is a lot of new. And new means that all of things of life are amplified. It is like there is a kind of much-ness as we see and experience things for the first time. Some of it is really fun, like putting your toes in the sand of a new beach. But new can also feel disorienting and overwhelming like the stress of driving around that first night trying to find our condo in the dark. New takes normal to another level, for good and for bad.
Eugene Peterson in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Placeswrites about how new things have this effect because they force us to pay attention. When we don’t have context, everything is heightened because everything sets a new norm. We tend to slow down, paying extraordinary attention to the otherwise unremarkable.
But new fades fast. And paying attention quickly gives way to dull participation.
Stop and do this. Wherever you are, pause and look at something for 10 seconds. Anything will do. The sky, the ground a plant, a car. It doesn’t take long before the thing you start looking at will become richer and more complex. Flowers and bugs and patterns and chaos and colors and much-ness. There is so much to see and experience when we pay attention. When we notice things, I mean really notice them, then we begin to see them with a kind of wonder. In this way paying attention is holy work.
In Matthew 13 Jesus is asked why he tells parables, and his answer is to quote from Isaiah. He says that people have numbed their senses. Their hearts have grown dull, their ears can barely hear, their eyes have closed. But if they would see and hear and understood and turn then Jesus would heal them.
At Hilton Head Island Community Church, we are in the business of being healed by Jesus. This means that we must do the work of paying attention. You have been made to notice Jesus at work in our midst and to invite others to notice him as well. No matter how you are choosing to participate in this season, there is opportunity for you to notice Jesus as we gather in person and online. So the next time you are gathered with us, take 10 seconds to pay attention to something, anything. There is a richness here that you’ve got to see with new eyes. It almost doesn’t matter where you look.
As for me, I am looking for others who are new so that I can be surrounded by people who are paying attention. I want to know what they see. I want to know how we’re a part of their story. What are we doing to provide GREAT new experiences? And where have we inadvertently made church feel disorienting and overwhelming? If you have forgotten what it feels like to be new, why don’t you join me on the Connections Team. And together we can be people paying attention to people paying attention.