Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 7)

Text: Matthew 10:29-31
For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows! 

Peace of mind

How relaxed are you this morning? Do you have peace of mind?

For a minute think about how you are feeling at this very moment. Would you describe yourself as being relatively calm, peaceful, unruffled, serene?
Are you at ease about yourself, about the way you have related to people this past week?
Are you happy with what has been happening at your work place or in your family?
Do you feel at peace in your relationship with God?

Do words like calmness, confidence and serenity describe how you feel this morning, or do words like restlessness, afraid, worry, depression, despondency, or discomfort better describe your feelings. What kind of words best describe the week that has just past?

Of course, there may be some here this morning who feel absolutely at ease, not a care in the world, if so, you are truly blessed. I might also add that there are very few people who achieve this state of mind for any length of time. Their serenity disappears with the next gust of worry and upset that unexpectedly blows into their lives.

And of course, there are degrees of disquiet, of restlessness, of nagging worry. Some days they are more intense than others.

This disquiet affects what happens in our day. We can't concentrate on our work, we react sharply when challenged over the slightest thing, and we are so distracted by the unrest and anxiety inside of us that we find it impossible to take time to listen to our spouses and families when we get home at night. And when we finally go to bed, we toss and turn, our minds are in a whirl playing over and over again the events that are at the centre of our uneasiness, anxiety squeezes out every positive thought - and we can't sleep. Our whole life has been turned up side down because of our fears.

A little boy was asked if he was looking forward to going to school for the first time. He replied, "My name is Donald, and I don't know anything. I have new underwear, a loose tooth, and didn't sleep last night because I'm worried. What if a bell rings and the teacher yells, "Where do you belong?" and I don't know? What if I canít reach the door knob to the toilet? What if my loose tooth comes out when we are supposed to be working quietly? Am I supposed to bleed quietly? What if I splash water on my name tag and my name disappears and no one knows who I am?"

Corrie Ten Boom once said, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength."

What is more, we are told that 80% of what we worry about never actually eventuates. The trouble is that we know that worrying can have serious consequences of our health and our feeling of being well, but that doesnít stop us from worrying. Try as we might we just can't find a way out of the fear that is ripping at our hearts. Even though we try to ignore it, and pretend it's not there, nothing helps. It keeps on coming back.

Are you an anxious person? Are you unnecessarily anxious about so many things that you find it hard to cope?

The Bible has a lot to say about our fears and anxieties. I could spend all day quoting passages from the Bible that remind us that we do not need to fear because God is in control, and when God is in control then we have a sense of well-being, of security, of peace.

Take the well-known Psalm, Psalm 23. "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd's rod and staff protect me."

Or Psalm 27, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid."

Or Psalm 46, "God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid".

Or consider the wonderful words spoken by God through the prophets. "Do not be afraidÖI have called you by name Ė you are mine. When you pass through deep waters I will be with you, your troubles will not overwhelm you. Ö For I am the Lord your GodÖyou are precious to meÖ Do not be afraid Ė I am with you" (Isaiah 43). "I will never forget you. ÖI have written your name on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49).

Some of you may recall from your childhood or perhaps read the story to your children Ė a story by Dr. Seuss entitled "Horton Hears a Who". It's a children's story about an elephant named Horton, who tries to protect a tiny world full of little creatures called "Whos" from destruction. Horton is the only one who can hear the "Whos" so all the other animals think Horton is crazy. The theme that is stated over and over again throughout the story is this:
A person is a person,
no matter how small.

Do you believe that? Jesus did.

By way of illustration Jesus declared that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God's notice. Even the hairs of your head are all counted, he said.

You are valuable to God regardless of what anyone else says. Jesus pays particular attention to highlighting the care of our heavenly Father, especially at times when we think there is no one who cares and can help us. Jesus draws our attention to the sparrows that were sold in the market place for food. They were very small birds and brought only a very small price. Clearly they were not very important. But God takes notice of every individual sparrow. Not one falls to earth without the involvement of the heavenly Father. God is not so busy running the universe that he hasn't got the time for little birds.

He is interested in the smallest detail of his people. It has been estimated that the average human head has about 140,000 hairs. In fact blondes have about 145,000 hairs, dark-haired people about 120,000 and redheads about 90,000. Jesus says that every hair on your head has its own number and is individually known and distinguished. Now for some people, God would have little trouble keeping track of your hair but the point is till the same. When a hair drops from our heads we hardly notice it or are concerned by it, but our heavenly Father knows.

Jesus wants to draw attention to the fact that God has a complete knowledge about each one of his children. It follows then, if God cares for the humblest members of creation and since he has knowledge of even the most insignificant details of his people, then we have no need to be afraid.

But I also need to tell you what Jesus is not saying. Jesus is not saying that sparrows will no longer fall, nor will there be any more bald people, nor is he saying there will be a stop to the things that will hurt us. But what he is saying is that we are in the Father's hands, and that misfortune only fills us with fear when we fail to trust in the heavenly Father who even cares for the smallest of his creatures.

Jesus concludes then with the words, "So do not be afraid". So donít worry! Donít be unsettled and despondent! Let go and let God have control. Be calm, peaceful, unruffled, serene and unafraid knowing that you have a heavenly Father who loves you, will never leave you in the lurch and will always be right beside you.

When Jesus says, "Do not be afraid", I donít believe that Jesus is saying that to worry is wrong, or that worrying necessarily indicates lack of faith. There are times when it is a healthy thing to be concerned and to worry. We know when we worry about what our kids get up to, we worry because we care. Or we worry because we want our future to be well planned or that a certain project is a success.

But you and I know that there is only a short distance healthy worry that arises out of our love and care and worry that is excessive and unhealthy. There comes a time when we need to take seriously the Godís promises speaks to each of us. There comes a time when we need to ask ourselves whether our Christian faith means something or not.
There comes a time when we need to realise that worrying about tomorrow isnít going to get us anywhere but makes up uptight.
There comes a time when we need to recognise that our lives are in Godís hands and he is the one who provides, who protects, who enriches our lives, who works things for good and so he can be trusted.

When we find ourselves saying,
"I donít know how Iím going to cope.
I donít know what decision to make.
I donít know how my work situation is going to turn out.
I am really worried about the future of my children,
I donít know how things will work out,
but I place it all in the hands of my God. Whatever happens, heíll be there and heíll carry me through."

When we place things into Godís hands - that really does mean letting go, being at ease, being filled with peace and calmness, - relaxing in the knowledge that God knows what heís doing.

God cares for us. In fact he cares so much that he came down to earth and lived among all the fears, doubts, frustrations, worries and tensions. He did this so that he could set us free. He died and rose again to lift the worry and fear from us, and clearly show us the beauty and the glory of God's love and forgiveness and tender care. He even forgives us for our lack of trust!

Horton said, "A person is a person, no matter how small." More importantly our Creator God says "A person is a person, no matter how small." He cares for his creation Ė we can count on that! He knows us and what is happening to us, even to the point of knowing when a hair falls off our heads. He even died on a cross because he cares. When we are anxious, uptight and restless, look at the cross and be reminded of the deepest and most profound love that God has for us and let his love take charge.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
19th June, 2005

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