LOUISVILLE – Frank Yamada, president of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, loves his electronic toys. He loves being connected. And he knows the dangers of distraction.
The theme of Big Tent 2013 – “Putting God’s First Things First” – comes from the Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel. How do we do that? “The simple answer is focus,” Yamada said in a Big Tent plenary presentation Aug. 2.
Brain research suggests humans aren’t good at multitasking – it takes us time to recover from each interruption. When we shut out distractions, we experience what some call “flow” or “being in the zone” – that sense that “the world stands still” while in a deep conversation, or the hours slip by while immersed in meaningful work
Attention and focus turn us into extraordinarily creative human beings, Yamada said. And worry – even about significant concerns such as racism, environmental decay or the economy – serves as a greenhouse cultivating an unholy culture of anxiety and fear. Idolatry, he said, is focusing on the wrong thing – “the god who is not God.”
Jesus instructed, in Matthew’s Gospel, that we should not worry – saying “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
God’s message is that all are good, created in the image of God. How different things might be – between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, in the conflicted U.S. Congress – if people looked at one another and thought, “You have value in the eyes of God,” Yamada said.
“That’s the good news of the Gospel,” he told the 1,400 participants in the second day of Big Tent. “It’s not hard. It starts with God’s love and then doing the work of the kingdom . . . Right the wrongs. Be agents of justice.”