FOMO & Mindfulness-Matthew 25:1-13
I remember when I was in high school one snowy morning. I woke up to find school was canceled, so I went back to sleep. My brother was always the one to get up early whether we had school or not. I liked to sleep in. Well the morning of this snow day I went back to sleep and had a dream. In the dream my brother and a bunch of our friends went out snowmobiling without me! Even the girl I liked went with them! I woke up anxious and jumped out of bed, just to make sure I didn’t miss out on whatever snow day adventures awaited us. And when I got up, I discovered my brother was still sleeping. Nobody left without me. I didn’t miss out on anything. But I still was worried enough that I stayed awake just to make sure I wouldn’t miss a thing.
I was suffering from what they call FOMO, “fear of missing out”. I think it’s something we can all relate to. And it has a way of making us keep awake so we won’t miss a thing. The bridesmaids in this parable suffer what everyone who has FOMO is afraid of. They missed out on the party of a lifetime. They missed out on the great wedding banquet, which here represents the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells this story to give us FOMO, fear of missing out. I don’t think the point is to make us despair, but I think he wants to make us just anxious enough, just motivated enough to keep awake, to pay attention, so that we don’t miss out when God’s presence appears in our lives—whether that’s the day the Kingdom of God is revealed, or in the simple everyday ways God appears now.
Jesus says that if we want to be ready for the Kingdom’s coming we need to “Keep Awake!” Some spiritual teachers see this call to Keep Awake as a call to mindfulness. A call to be present, to be attentive to the now, to be aware of the divine presence in daily life. I don’t think this parable makes much sense if you look at it any other way.
In this chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells us three parables in a row: this parable about keeping awake, the parable of the talents which we’ll hear next week, and the parable of the sheep and the goats which we’ll hear the week after. All three discuss some sort of expectation God has of us. All three fill us in on different things we need to know to be ready for God’s presence. And all three parables come across as pretty judgmental. There’s not a ton of grace in them. But it’s important not to think any one parable contains all we need to know about God and God’s redeeming work through Christ. The purpose of this parable of the bridesmaids is to draw our attention to the need to be mindful. The need to hone our spiritual attentiveness so that we can perceive God’s presence and action within ourselves and in the outside world.
This parable says that being mindful or keeping awake is such an important spiritual practice, that if don’t do it we’ll be left out of the party. We’ll miss the Kingdom when it comes. And we won’t see God’s presence now. The door will be shut and we won’t know why. This parable instills the fear of missing out in us, something Jesus hopes will motivate his disciples to keep awake! The point of this parable, it seems to me, is that Jesus wants us to give us FOMO so that we’ll be mindful.
So how do we keep awake? How does one be “mindful”? Jesus doesn’t mean we need to literally not sleep. But Jesus does mean we are to cultivate our spiritual awareness through things like prayer and meditation. Through mindful perception and observation. It means being present in the now, being fully aware of what’s going on inside us and outside us. Keeping awake means not getting lost in our thoughts and caught up in our emotions all the time. But through prayer and mediation recognizing what’s going on in our inner world and being at peace with whatever we find down there. And when we’re doing our daily routine it means not hectically running around from one thing to the next all the time, but paying attention to what’s going on around us and noticing the little things. Driving your car, walking your dog, doing the dishes, eating our food—all can be done mindlessly or they can be done mindfully with full awareness, intention, and focus. That’s how we keep awake. That’s how we cultivate our spiritual presence. That’s how we prepare ourselves for the Wedding Feast.
The stories we heard this morning from Anne & Greg (Kathy & Zoey) speak of the vibrant life and faith in this community. We heard how this faith community has helped them wake up to God’s presence in new ways. There’s so many ways God has been active here at St. Matthew. And as we focus on our annual stewardship campaign, we remember Jesus’ call to keep awake and be mindful. To be mindful of the commitments we make, of how we spend our time, and of where we dedicate our financial resources. And so in the coming weeks we ask you to make a commitment to the ministry of St. Matthew. God has blessed us during this time of pandemic. And we trust God will continue to provide for our needs and use us to provide for the needs of others.
So this week pray about how you can keep awake to God’s presence around you.And pray for God to guide you in your giving, in your commitments, and in your faith journey.God is present in this place.God is present in your life.God is present in the ministry we share together.May you be mindful of that.And may you keep awake to where God is present in your life and to where God is guiding you next. Amen.