Lady Pastor: Paying close attention to your faith is the watchword
It takes sincere focus to concentrate on something. By watching the world around us attentively, we are able to see reality in fresh, impactful ways. Do you remember what it felt like to watch out the window of your first airplane ride? Or to watch your child falling sleeping in your arms the day you brought him home? Or to watch the bright sun rise above the horizon after a stretch of cloudy days? Life is in many ways defined by the moments we really watch.
Jesus instructs his followers to watch on various occasions in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. "Watch" marks the next stop in our Lenten series featuring some of Jesus' one-word commands. So far this season, we've explored his instructions "go" and "believe." Today it's "watch."
The Gospels were first penned in Greek. They have since been translated into many languages including, of course, English. But with each translation, certain aspects of the originally-intended meaning get lost.
In order to reconnect with the original meaning of a word, it's interesting to do something called a "word study." Pastors learn to do this in seminary, but anyone can engage in this form of biblical research, and the Internet makes it easier than ever.
A word study involves using an online tool or Greek translation of the Bible to determine the original definitions of a word. Then a person can also look up the other times that same word is used in the Bible. My favorite free online tool for word studies is called "Blue Letter Bible," and I highly recommend its use!
One of the Greek words that can be translated as "watch" is gregoreo. It means "to look at," "to give strict attention to," and "to be cautious."
When I planted my first garden five years ago, I looked at it every day. I basically "gregoreo-ed" my plant babies non-stop, documenting and photographing each new row of sprouts as it grew. I watered and weeded. I marveled at every piece of fresh leaf lettuce and kohlrabi. I paid strict attention to that garden and tried my best to meet its needs. I watched it like a hawk!
In Mark 14:38, Jesus says, "Watch and pray." In Luke 12:15, Jesus commands, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed." In Matthew 26:38, Jesus invites the disciples to stay awake and "keep watch" with him. My favorite watch reference comes in Mark 13:37 when Jesus says, "What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!"
To watch is to give strict, intentional attention. Jesus invites us to keep watch each day. He believes in our ability to set aside distractions and concentrate on his nearness, his presence, and the daily signs of his kingdom.
Watch for Jesus this week! Watch for signs of the kingdom of God — examples of grace and mercy — everywhere you go. Watch for examples of God's love, creativity, healing, and forgiveness while you're checking in your email inbox, driving in your van, and talking to your teenager. Watch and pray as this Lenten season progresses. And be astounded.