The Second Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 3A (5/25/2008)

Do Not Worry

Lessons:      Psalm 131      Isaiah 49:8-16a      1st Corinthians 4:1-5      St. Matthew 6:24-34

Prayer of the Day:      God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children, and you know already what we need. In all our anxiety, give us trusting and faithful hearts, that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6.24 "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?' or ‘What will we drink?' or ‘What will we wear?' 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.

St. Matthew 6:24-34, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

We live in times of great worry.

Our worry is heightened by many of the messages that assail us from day to day. Advertisers seek to make us worried that we aren't getting the best deal, or aren't wearing the most stylish clothing, or aren't driving the safest car, or aren't eating the healthiest food, or aren't enjoying the richest luxuries. Politicians seek to make us worried that the current batch of elected leaders (or the ones seeking to replace them) aren't going to keep us safe from the dangers that surround us. Pop psychologists seek to make us worried that our interactions with one another are doing damage to our psyche - or worse yet: doing damage to our children's well-being. Economists seek to make us worried that the cost of gas or the cost of housing is going to drive us to financial ruin. Environmental advocates seek to make us worried that we are doing damage to the water, the air, the climate...

We live in times of great worry.

So did the people of Jesus' time. The 1st Century was a very worried time. Peasant farmers worried about how to scratch out a living in a hot, dry climate. Citizens worried about aggressive neighbor states which often sent out conquering armies to expand their territories. Travelers worried about sickness or injury that could come from spreading diseases, wild animals, or dangerous roadways.

In worried times, whether our own times or times long past, it is easy to become consumed by worry. It is easy to allow worry to overtake us. It is easy to be ruled by fear.

In the face of all this, Jesus says, "Do not worry." This is a message which is easy to misinterpret. His call to reject worry is not the glib or Pollyannaish sentiment of Bobby McFerrin's well-known song:

Ain't got no place to lay your head Somebody came and took your bed Don't worry, be happy The land lord say your rent is late He may have to litigate Don't worry, be happy

Don't Worry, Be Happy (Grammy award winning 1988 "Best Song of the Year"), from the album, "Simple Pleasures" (Grammy award winning 1988 "Best Album of the Year")

Jesus nowhere says, "Don't care about the troubles of this world." Jesus nowhere says, "Don't try to make a difference." Jesus doesn't call us to careless or thoughtless living.

As a matter of fact, his message is exactly the opposite of that. He teaches that the life of Christian discipleship will be challenging, exhausting, and even dangerous. He calls his disciples (then and now) to be fully engaged with the world, with all its difficulties and complexities. Yet, at the same time, discipleship in the name of Jesus is not ruled by fear (fear of worldly trouble or fear of eternal damnation). It is ruled by hope: a hope that is grounded in the power of the resurrection; a hope that is given to those whose first interest is the Kingdom of God.

This coming Monday is Memorial Day -- a day that commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to our country. When I think of the courage and sacrficie exibited by so many througout the years, it occurs to me that their bravery was not grounded in their fear of an armed opponent, but instead, in their hope for what the United States could be in the world.

So too with our faith. When our lives are centered on the power and presence of God, we live with great hope. We trust that no matter the current circumstances, with God's help all will be well.

We live in times when there are perfectly reasonable reasons to worry about the future. Yet for those of us who are Christians, the power of the resurrection is even greater than the dangers that surround us. When our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, it is our faith in God's grace that allows us to face even the gravest dangers this world can dish out, and stand unafraid.

Our Christian faith does not assure us that life will be easy and uncomplicated. But it does assure us that along the journey of this life, we never walk alone. God is with us every step of the way. May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace to hold fast to this belief, and be not afraid.

David J. Risendal

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. What worries did the people in Jesus' time have?
  2. What affect did their worrying have on how they lived?
  3. What causes people to be worried in our world today?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. What do I worry most about?
  2. What would it be like to turn those worries over to God?
  3. What particular worry will I turn over to God first?