Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 3

Text: Matthew 6:34
"Do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings".

Winning over worry

In the gospel reading today we hear Jesus telling us that we worry unnecessarily over so many things.

There are lots of sayings about worry Ė like

"Chronic worriers often worry about not having something to worry about" or
"Worry doesn't help tomorrow's troubles, but it does ruin today's happiness" or
"Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway".

There are stories about worry.

Death was walking toward a city one morning and a man asked,
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to take 100 people," Death replied.
"That's horrible!" the man said.
"That's the way it is," Death said. "That's what I do."
The man hurried to warn everyone he could find about Death's plan. As evening fell, he met Death again.
"You told me you were going to take 100 people," the man said. "Why did 1,000 people die today?"
"I kept my word," Death responded. "I only took 100 people. Worry took the others."

Humorous bits have been written about worry.

The worried cow would have lived till now,
if she had saved her breath;
but she feared her hay wouldn't last all day,
so she mooed herself to death!

But really worry is nothing to laugh about especially when you are right in the middle of it. As bold and as confident as we might be most of the time, we all fall victim to worry. Of all the people I have had dealings with over the years I canít say that I have ever met anyone who has been able to say truthfully that they have never had a single worry. Worry and its close relatives anxiety and stress are part of everyday life.

Worry is not simply a mental thing but it affects our whole body. There are a whole range of health problems connected with worry and stress. Add to that the fatigue and the lack of energy that comes from sleepless nights and the restlessness and the lack of peace that confusion and anxiety leave in their wake.

God didn't intend that the people whom he created and saved should be wrung out, strung out, and hung out by worry and stress. Fretting and tension caused by worry have come into God's perfect stress free world as a result of the disobedience of humanity against God's ways. Sin has truly messed up our lives. In fact, when things are going too well we worry what unexpected thing is going to hit us next. 

God's answer to the problems of living and that includes how we are going to survive from day to day, is emphatically stated in the words of Jesus, "Do not start worrying: "Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?' Ö Ö Do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings" (Matt 6:31-34).

Jesus was talking to people who were anxious about the ordinary problems of working and living, preoccupied with anxieties about food, clothing and shelter. He tells us, "Do not worry."

But letís get real here. Chronic worriers know that kind of advice is easier said than done. You canít stop someone worrying by telling them not to worry. It just doesnít work that way. It's like saying to a friend on a bus crowded with coughing, sneezing, panting, nose blowing passengers, "Don't worry, thereís no way youíll catch a cold." Saying "Donít worry" is cold comfort indeed and because you know very well there is every reason to be worried.

Bobbie McFerrin wrote and recorded a song entitled, "Don't Worry, Be Happy". The words go like this:

Here's a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note,
Don't worry, be happy!
In your life there may be trouble,
When you worry, you make it double,
Don't worry, be happy!

Good idea and it is true that worrying only doubles your trouble but how do you do it! The song offers no clues; it just tells us "Don't worry, be happy". Bobbie McFerrinís song is a meatless sandwich. Between the two slices of bread Ė "don't worry" and "be happy" - one has to ask, "Where's the meat?" What is the substance in this Ďdonít worryí sandwich that will make us happy? Itís good advice but just telling me not to worry is not going to stop me from worrying.

To really catch on to what Jesus is saying today with his advice about worry, we have to look at why Jesus is able to say "Donít worry". Jesus is giving us more than meaningless advice when it comes to dealing with worry. He reminds us that God understands our deepest needs. He knows what worries us and what we stress over.

Jesus assures us that God will not give up looking after us and will continue to be generous toward each of us, in fact, he gives us more than we rightly deserve. In the first reading today from Isaiah, God reassures his people that even though it is possible for a mother to ignore and not care for her child, this is not possible for God. He says, "Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you. I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16). When God says he will never forget his people, he isnít just talking about some kind of mental exercise of remembering, or giving those he loves an occasional thought. When he says "I will never forget" he means I will care for you,
provide for you,
watch over you,
heal you,
encourage and comfort you,
forgive you and give you fresh starts and newness.

Jesus talks about how God never forgets the birds and notes that they have nothing to worry about. He points to the flowers and the green grass Ė look how beautiful they are. God has made and cares for them all. If God does that for birds and plants that are so insignificant, how can we think that God wouldnít also care for us, that he would forget our needs?
After all we are his people.
We are made and saved by God.
We are people who have been given a promise, "I will never forget you" and God is always true to his word.
We are people who are dearly loved by a God who has given us his Son Jesus to remove the guilty stain of sin with his forgiveness. He makes us new people who are happy to live as God's people. He has adopted us into his family and calls us his dear children.

We have the resources of the God of the universe to take care of every need that we have. We have a God who has the power and the burning love to take care of our needs.

Iím not assuming that nothing bad will ever happen to us. Bad things will happen. Maybe those bad things may even bring our life to an end here on this earth, but that doesnít mean God has forgotten us. Quite the contrary. God remembers us and takes us from this life to the perfect healing and wholeness that we have in heaven. That is the ultimate in love and care that God can give us - to be made perfect just as God intended us to be in the first place.

Can you see what Jesus is doing here? Jesus provides a powerful argument against getting so uptight with so much worry. He says in effect:
Take this life of yours that you worry about so much and become anxious, from where did you it?
And the answer of course is that it is a gift of God.
And so it follows. If God has given you your life, do you think he will suddenly give up on you and let you fend for yourself - leave you to your own resources for your own survival and all the worrying that goes with it?
And not only did he make you but he also gave his Sonís life for you. Do you think he would now abandon you? Never!

Why is Jesus making such a big deal about worry?

Jesus knows how distracting worry can be. In fact, our reading today started by talking about the kinds of distractions that can fill our lives to the point that God slowly fades out of our lives. One of the biggest distractions that we have from serving God is the stuff that we accumulate. Our culture tells us that accumulating as much stuff as possible will provide us with a worry free life. We say we need the bigger, the better, the new and the improved. Then we donít have to worry about the old not being adequate to do the job or stress about something breaking down.

Our culture tells us that to be truly worry free means amassing stocks, property, super, life insurance Ė with that kind of backing we will have no worries about our future. Iím not saying that these things are wrong but we get sucked in, lose our way - our allegiance, our worship, our time, our energy are slowly, almost unnoticeably, transferred from worshipping God and focusing on his care for us to focusing on the stuff we accumulate and the way we are able to care for ourselves.

Our culture has got it all wrong and we are in danger of following down the same path. We get so wrapped in the temporary and the earthly that we forget the eternal God and his never ending love for us. Our worship and the mission of service and outreach to others become a rather poor second priority in our lives. We are worried about so many things that we lose our focus.

Jesus urges us to get it right when he says, "Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things". First and foremost, Jesus is saying,
seek God's kingdom,
know that Jesus is your Saviour,
get to know what great things God can and will do for you,
learn to trust him.
Learn to focus not so much on yourself but on your loving God who will do anything for you.

But you can bet that as soon as this service is over we will fret and be anxious over many things; we will let our worries settle over us like a thick fog and we will not be able to see Godís loving presence. Thatís why Jesus directs us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
There in the kingdom of God we find forgiveness for our failure to trust God.
There we find new life, we are made new again through this forgiveness and sent out again to trust our heavenly Father and his goodness.
There we find the Saviour who died for us and for all those millions of times we worry needlessly and forget that we have a God who is far greater than any of our worries.
And even when we are so uptight and worried that we lose sight of God and his power to help completely, be assured he is not far away, loving as always, ready to help. He says to each of us,
"I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands"

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
25th May 2008
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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