Hi friends! This sermon kind of took a different direction than I thought it was going to, but things kept happening throughout the week pushing me to look at the scripture in a different way.
To give some background, I shared with the congregation on Friday morning that I am pregnant with our second child, due in April. I start the sermon by talking about a doctor’s appointment I had at the beginning of the week that made me have to live out Jesus’ words, “Do not worry.”
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 27, 2019
How Can We Not Worry?
This scripture mocked me this week.
I should preface this by saying that I actually cut a little over 600 words out of my sermon last week (I know that is hard to believe considering I went on for 15 minutes anyway). I did this because 1) the sermon was getting too long and 2) I thought the part I cut would actually work better with this week’s scripture, which was supposed to be a continuation on stewardship.
So it was win-win, because not only did I feel like I made a more concise point last week, but, as a bonus, going into this week I had a pretty good jump start on my sermon for Sunday – and this NEVER happens!
Well, it still did not happen, because, like I said, this scripture mocked me this week. And I won’t go into all of the details of the week (because then the sermon would certainly be longer than 15 minutes) but I will say that it started on Tuesday morning at what was supposed to be a quick and routine doctor’s visit which turned into an unexpected ultrasound.
Now, everything turned out to be fine and the whole process, though it felt like an eternity at the time, probably only took about 15 minutes.
However, as I was sitting in the waiting room, waiting for them to call me back for the ultrasound, I thought, as a good distraction, I would pull up the scripture for this week and start taking some notes for my sermon.
And there it was:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.
Remember a couple of weeks ago when I introduced our stewardship theme, Shout It From The Mountaintop, and then looked at the scripture for the week where Jesus calls us to give quietly and not to announce it to everyone and how my initial response was, “Well clearly Jesus never had to balance an operating budget”? Well suffice it to say, my first thought on Tuesday when I read these words was, “Well, clearly Jesus never had to wait for an OB ultrasound.”
And then my week went on.
And there was nothing major; it is just a really busy time of year and there are a lot of moving parts and honestly most of it resolved fairly quickly. But there was just moment after moment this week I kept looking at these words, “Therefore do not worry” and thinking, this has got to be one of the hardest calls in the Gospel.
Because how can we not worry? How can we not look at the realities of our earthly lives – the things that cause us stress and anxiety and pain, particularly the things that we have absolutely no control over – and not worry? It such a natural response to our humanity. Does Jesus actually think it is possible for us not to worry?
And yet, it is not like Jesus never had anything worry about. It is not like Jesus never faced any situation that caused him stress or anxiety or pain. I mean, this is Jesus we are talking about. Remember, the Sermon on the Mount is towards the beginning of the Gospel; Jesus just spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. He knows how hard it is to be human.
And yet, Jesus say these words:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.
Jesus understands – truly understands – the depth of what he is saying. He knows how it feels to bear the burden of our own humanity and still let go of the worries that brings us. He knows this will, in fact, be easier said than done.
First of all, I think it is important to note that Jesus was talking about something very specific here. Remember, this part of the Sermon on the Mount follows the part where Jesus talks about not storing up for ourselves treasures on earth and keeping our focus on God and God, alone. And so I do think, in many ways, Jesus is talking about money and material things when he tells the disciples not to worry and not just about the grand scheme of things. Look at the examples he uses: He says to look at the birds of the air, because they do not sow or reap and yet, God takes feeds them. Then he says to consider the lilies of the field, because they not toil or spin and yet they grow.
I suppose the very basic lesson in all of this is that God will provide and so we should therefore not hoard our belongings and our money as if we were in control of it all, but rather we should be faithful to God’s call and trust that God is going to guide us on our journey.
Which, to be honest, is probably a good reminder for all of us when we are in the middle of stewardship and budgeting season and that is EXACTLY where those 600 words from last week’s sermon were going to take us this week.
It was such a great story about me canceling Christmas last year, too.
But back to the week I had.
There were too many things that happened to me this week – things that were out of my control, things that did cause me to worry, things that I just kind of had to wait and see what would happen – that brought me back to this scripture and reminded me that there is a greater lesson in here for us.
I realized, every time I had to sit with the discomfort of not being in control and not knowing what was going to happen next, that these words can speak to us wherever we are on our journey through life.
Yes, I do think Jesus is referring to money and material items in this passage – things like food to eat and clothing to wear – but I also do not want to take away from the powerful nature of these words:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry.
Because I think they resonate with a lot of us. I think we all have worries – whether they are related to our heath, finances, work or families. Life is not always easy, in fact it very rarely is. But we do have this promise: This promise that we do not have to worry, this promise that God will provide, this promise that we are not alone in this world.
And this is a promise that is steadfast in our faith, no matter what else might change around us. I believe Jesus speaks these words in the Sermon on the Mount – one of his earliest recorded teachings to the disciples – because he wants them to understand what this new covenant means, what it will mean to follow him, what it means to have this very human connection to God and for God to have this very human connection to all of us.
Because remember the really amazing thing about this whole Jesus story. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. On some level, God came into this world and experienced human flesh. And so when Jesus says that we should not worry and that God will provide, he says so earnestly because God knows how hard it is for us to live out these words.
And the thing is, Jesus does not say, “Do not worry about tomorrow, because everything is going to be okay.” Jesus says, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” In other words, he knows that life is not going to be easy and that there are always going to be things that come up; but he also knows that life is not going to be something that we ever have to face alone and that we simply have to rest in the grace of each moment and to give our burdens to God.
So we should believe these words to be true – no matter what we are facing next in life.
One final thought – we are nearing the end of the Sermon on the Mount, we are about two-thirds of the way through and Jesus is starting to wrap things up. And as I reflected on this passage this week at the same time that the excitement of the bazaar was starting to bubble up around me, I started to think that there was a reason Jesus begins to close out his thoughts with this discussion about not worrying.
Because Jesus is getting ready to head out with the disciples to do some real, hard, get-your-hands-dirty kind of ministry. And they are not going to do it alone. They are doing it together.
And so, as we get ready to leave this space today and think about this scripture and really wrestle with how hard it is to actually live out these words, I would remind you of the people that are sitting around you right now. This is your village, your church, your Body of Christ. When Jesus says, “do not worry” he knows that this is much easier done in community than it is by ourselves.
So do not try to do it alone.
I know there is a lot going on right now – both here at the church and in everyone’s lives. So I think it is a good reminder for us today to pause for a moment and let Jesus’ words sit in our hearts: “Do not worry.”
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God!