Jesus said, “Watch.” What did he mean?
Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the man whose prayer begins, “Thank you, God. This day has been going so well. I haven’t had any bad thoughts. I haven’t gotten angry at anyone. And I haven’t done anything I regret.” Then comes the punchline: “But, dear God, any minute now the alarm clock is going to go off, and I’m going to have to get out of bed and face the rest of the day. So I could really use Your help.”
A lot of stuff comes at us on any given day, and sometimes it can feel as if we’re running to catch up to our best selves even before we get started. But the basic message of Christianity is not about how to have more positive thoughts amidst the onslaught of negative ones, nor is it about how to overcome feelings of guilt about the negative thoughts that come our way. The good news that Christ Jesus brought is that right here and now, no matter what appears to be going on around us or within us, God, good, is present and supreme; the kingdom of heaven, where God reigns, is, in fact, where we live. I find it very difficult, if not impossible, to read the accounts of Jesus’ healing works and not come to this conclusion.
It’s as though Christ is saying to us in the New Testament, “You think you’ve got a highly contagious disease? Well, because God controls the condition of your being, you’re actually whole and well.”
“You believe you’re in danger because the weather is about to swamp your boat? Don’t be afraid; you can never be outside the atmosphere of God’s peace.”
“You’re convinced the news worth reporting is the obituary of your brother, Lazarus? No, the news is actually that there are no limits to the power of God’s kingdom.”
Take your pick of any of Jesus’ healings, and this message of God’s presence and supremacy—that the kingdom of heaven is here—is the takeaway. That, along with the fact that the leprosy vanished, the storm stopped, and Lazarus came out of the grave—alive. Every Christian from Jesus’ time until today affirms this fundamental fact of God’s present supremacy every time they pray these lines from the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
But Jesus also wanted us to fully understand that the nature of the belief that existence is material is that it is opposed to the kingdom of Spirit, God. And this limited, material sense of things will steadfastly refuse to yield to the actuality of God and God’s harmonious creation until forced to do so by the voice, power, and presence of the Christ, the true idea of God, which is always speaking to our consciousness. So material sense needs to be watched, and Christ, or the spiritual sense of things, needs to be actively listened to.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus gives an extended and vivid account of how aggressive the material sense of things can get. He spoke of the Temple being destroyed, of wars, of his followers facing severe threats, of the whole earth being darkened. Not that any of these things would or could change the forever fact of God’s supremacy, only that we could be made to think so if we didn’t keep a vigilant watch over what we accept into consciousness as true. Tucked in amidst the list of calamities are these words from Jesus: “The gospel must first be published among all nations” (13:10).
Mary Baker Eddy dedicated this magazine to keeping this watch. She said that the Sentinel is “intended to hold guard over Truth, Life, and Love” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353). I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve felt discouraged or been dealing with some ailment that made me feel far from God, and an article or testimony in this magazine has come to my rescue—defending my spiritual sense of being and putting me on the path to healing. Sometimes it was an article dealing with a particular issue going on in the world that was getting a lot of attention. Other times it has been something more basic to my understanding of how to live a Christian life. But the effect was the same: to awaken a genuine sense of spirituality within me.
To watch spiritually is to stay hungry for righteousness, to yearn always to see and know God, good.
You may have heard about some significant changes coming to the Sentinel. The important thing to keep in mind is why these changes are happening: to strengthen our experience of keeping the watch that Jesus demanded. It can be easy to start to think of the Sentinel as a product that shows up in our mailboxes each week. But the goal of the Sentinel is to be not a product but an experience.
Jesus’ command is straightforward: “Watch” (Mark 13:37). The experience of that watch involves being alert, vigilant—aware of how the enemy, material thinking, tries to divert our thought away from Spirit, from Life, Truth, and Love. To watch spiritually is to stay hungry for righteousness, to yearn always to see and know God, good. The Sentinel is committed to bringing this watch into even greater focus going forward.
One change is a sharper editorial focus on how we support each other while on spiritual “guard duty” for the world. Other changes have to do with the ways we can be more immediate in providing that support. It is interesting to note that one of the reasons Mrs. Eddy began the Sentinel was that she felt there was often a need to communicate more frequently than could the monthly Christian Science Journal. Well, today’s means of communication—such as print, smartphones, and internet—make possible even more timely connections when needed.
Every time a reader of this magazine goes online to listen to a Sentinel Watch podcast or the audio version of an article, they are already taking advantage of an aspect of the Sentinel experience that goes beyond just what is printed on the page. The upcoming changes will enhance and broaden what it means to subscribe. In the course of a day, many of us receive news updates from various sources on our phones and in emails, alerting us to something going on in the world. Imagine how helpful it would be if right at the moment you were endeavoring to pray about some world event, you received a message of inspiration related to that very situation from the editors of the Sentinel.
None of the upcoming changes will replace the print experience, but they are expected to bring a kind of synergy to it. Here’s an example of what this might look like. Ethel Baker, the Editor, and I recently had a video conversation with Christian Science teachers around the world to share in some detail where the Sentinel is heading. The conversation was recorded, and the Quick Response (QR) code printed here will give you access to a portion of it. While this square of dots and squiggles may make no sense to you or me, it is exactly the language a digital camera on your smartphone uses to help print readers connect to audio and visual content. Try it. If you have a mobile phone that has a camera, just focus the camera on the image as though you were going to take a picture of it. A link should automatically appear on your screen that you can simply tap with your finger, which will then enable you to view the video. If you’re not able to use the QR code successfully, you can type this link into your computer’s web browser: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSxAUt8gDTU. And if you have no interest in connecting digitally, that’s OK, too. The video is only meant to bring some added dimension to the message you’ve already read.
If you’re ever tempted to think that the world today is too hard, too fast, too demanding to keep up with spiritually, ask yourself if you’d rather live under the conditions that Jesus’ followers were facing in their time. Yet they had what they needed to keep their spiritual watch, and so do we. Those committed to holding guard over thought on the side of God will always have what they need in the way that best supports them. So we don’t need to feel like the man who dreaded getting out of bed because he wasn’t prepared for what might lie ahead. We’ll feel the joy of eagerly watching to greet the spiritual morning that awaits us all.
Member of the Christian Science Board of Directors