Jesus is inviting us to address each day’s problems as they come, confident that our lives are in the hands of a loving God who made us, who surrounds us with grace, who has got things under control.
November 21, 2021
Do Not Worry
Pastor Heather McColl
“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? 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? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
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? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Do Not Worry Matthew 6:25-33
I have a confession to make. As a person of faith, I struggle with putting these words into practice. At first, when I read this particular text, I love it. It talks about the birds of the air. It talks about the lilies of the field. It beckons me to put my trust in God. This text’s beautiful cadence settles me down into a calm meditative state, a state of oneness with the universe I hope to achieve. This text’s beautiful cadence settles me into a state of mindfulness which gives me a glimpse into Kingdom of Heaven…that is until my mind starts going over my to do list for the day. There are bills to be paid. Errands to be run. There is wandering aisle after aisle in the grocery story, trying to find the one item I need. Even as I read this text, my mind remembers that there are piles of laundry waiting for me when I get home. I begin to drift towards the questions of life: “Did I forget to pick up the dry-cleaning?” “What did I forget to do today? “I know I put that piece of paper in a safe place so I wouldn’t lose it. Now, where was that safe place?”
And I know that I am not alone in this sentiment. So many of us feel the same way. So many of us will be the first to admit that what Jesus is supposedly asking in this text seems impossible to practice in reality. Even as we read this text, our mind begins to wander, bringing questions and worries to mind. And with each passing which comes to mind, this calm state of peace and mindfulness which this text calls us to cultivate, this calm state of peace and mindfulness which was so close becomes more and more elusive, especially now as technology and social media have become a part of our daily routine like never before. Our cell phones continue to buzz, letting us know we have a text or an email coming in. All our technology bings at us at every minute of every single day, alerting us to a news story happening in our nation or world. And with each new alert brings a new worry. And with each new worry, our minds are filled with anxious thoughts. And with each new worry, each new anxious thought, we realize Jesus’ words are slipping farther and farther away from us. Each new worry leading us away from that calm state of peace and mindfulness which we all crave.
Worry? Us? Nope! (Please hear the sarcasm in my voice)
For many of us, worry has become a prominent part of our everyday existence. We worry about aging parents. We worry about our grades in school. We worry about our kids. We worry about being liked by others. We worry if we are forgetting anything. We worry if we are going to outlive our resources in retirement. We worry about being safe. We worry about what is in our food. We worry about….I’ll let you fill in the blank.
With each new worry, we become more and more anxious. The disconnect between Jesus’ words and our lives in the 21st century, this disconnect grows larger and larger until it seems impossible that we will ever fulfill our calling. We brush off Jesus’ calming, mindful words as being irrelevant in our day and time. We say things like Jesus didn’t know our world and the problems we face. We say things like There is no way he could have known how the world was going to change, the advances in technology, and the natural disasters that are becoming a common occurrence. So we continue to worry, becoming more and more anxious each and every day.
Which brings me to the question: How is all this worrying working out for us? It hasn’t helped us live any longer. It hasn’t solved any problems. It hasn’t helped us become the people of love and grace which God created us and calls us to be. The only thing worrying really has ever done is raise our heart rates and stress us out so much that we can’t even function.
All this worrying hasn’t helped. Yes, I know the irony of me saying these words. Me, one of the biggest worriers is saying “Don’t Worry”. Me who if I don’t have anything to worry about creates stuff to worry about is saying… “Don’t be anxious”.
However in moments like these moments, moments when I am so overwhelmed, I am always grateful for the Spirit’s gentle beckoning, reminding me to take a deep breath, reminding me to hold onto the promises given to me, given to us by a God who loves us more than we can ever imagine. The Spirit whispers to us in moments of worry and anxiousness, reminding us that all will be okay. We may not know how or when but as people of faith, we do know, no matter what, it will always be okay.
And for me as a person of faith, I can think of no other voice that I need to hear more in these moments of worry and anxiety. No other voice that I need more in the moments when I am so overwhelmed that I don’t know which way is up. I need the Spirit of God to break through to me in times such as these and remind me just exactly who holds me in care and love.
You see, Jesus isn’t calling us to be irresponsible or careless with this call to not worry. Rather, he is inviting us to address each day’s problems as they come, confident that our lives are in the hands of a loving God who made us, who surrounds us with grace, who has got things under control. As followers of Jesus, this whole “Don’t worry, Don’t be anxious” invitation is a call to address our divided attention between what the world values and what the Kingdom of God values.
Just before our text, in verse 24, Jesus tells his disciples, tells us that this whole worry thing is grounded in trying to serve two masters-the world and the Kingdom of God. Jesus wants us to know that this is an impossible task. We simply cannot do it. And if we try, the struggle will pull us apart each and every time.
Because as we all know, the world always wants more-more money, more time, more stuff, more of our attention. It is never satisfied. The world will not stop until it has consumed us, consumed God’s creation and drained us of our spirits. If we choose to serve the world, we will never find rest. We will never find peace from our worry. We will only become more and more anxious.
But… if we serve only the Kingdom of God, we become centered on, centered in the presence of God once more. We become connected once more to our God who tells us that there is more than enough love, more than enough resources, more than enough space at the Table to welcome all of God’s children. If we center ourselves on God, a reversal of values takes place, a reversal that brings us closer to finding rest and peace for our weary worried souls.
Now, I will admit that this would be a really great time for a sermon illustration, an illustration that captures just how we can do that. But like I said, I don’t have all the answers. I am still trying to figure out how to live this whole “Don’t worry” out in my life. Too many times, I find myself falling back into a pattern of saying, “Okay, God, I’ll turn things over to you, but if you would just do things my way, that would be great and I’ll be much happier.” Usually when I make this request, all I hear is silence and yes, maybe a chuckle coming from the universe because really how many times does it take for me to learn that God is God and I am not.
So I guess, in all humility, all I can say is that as we continue to grapple with the call of discipleship, to trust our God, all I can say is that in times such as these, times when it feels like the world is overwhelming us, in times such as these when it feels like worry and anxiety are taking over, in times such as these when we cringe at turning on the TV, answering the phone, checking our email, even cringe at looking at Facebook, because of what we will hear or read on the other end, in times such as these when it feels like we are overwhelmed, all I can say is that there is no better time than for us to just take a breath, for us to listen to the Spirit, to listen for the Spirit’s calming and peace filled words, and then begin practicing what we preach. May it be.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, November 21, 2021 – Do Not Worry Matthew 6:25-33.