A few times a week I will have a conversation with someone about how their life is going. They have concerns about their health, their job, their children, or any number of issues that face us in our world. We honestly have much to be concerned about, and that concern can sometimes lead us to worry.
I guess I could say that I am somewhat of a worrier. I tend to over think somethings and let them get under my skin and then it causes me to worry about them. However, the biggest thing I worry about, most of the time, is the Sunday sermon. I tend to work on the sermon all week, but I rise early on Sunday morning, and I put pen to paper, actually, I put fingers to keyboard, and I begin to write. I am a manuscript preacher, so I write out my sermons.
Now I know, on an intellectual level, that most weeks, everything will be fine, but that does not stop those worries come Sunday night, and I have been known to just lay there in bed worrying about what I am going to say. I fear that the printer will work and I have the paper to print on. Is the ink running low, what if the lights go out and the computer will not start? My penmanship is so bad that if I had to write this out by hand, I would not be able to read what I have written. However, there I am, in the darkness, worrying about all of these things.
From time to time to talk about these issues with my spiritual director and the response is usually the same, “have you done everything you need to do to prepare?” So my response is, “yes, I believe I have” and the response back is, “then why are you worrying?” You see my friends, I am a worrier, and that is what we do, we worry.
Ona n intellectual level I know that worrying about things I have no control over, like the electricity going out, is stupid and senseless. I do not control the flow of electrons through the wires, I do not control the trees that might fall on those wires and knock the power out, but I am in control of being prepared just in case. Perhaps waiting until Sunday morning, as I do most weeks, to get the text written is not the best idea, maybe I should begin earlier and just refine on Sunday morning, but, here I sat this very morning writing these words after laying awake worrying if the power was going to go off.
I shared with you last week, a little of the work that the search committee has started. We are looking at the typical person who lives within a three and a half mile radius of the church. Getting to know who lives outside the walls of the church will better prepare us to answer the question, “who is our neighbor?” I shared some of the demographic stuff last week, middle forties, female, professional, married, etc. However, what I did not share was, what are they concerned about?
Statistically speaking, the area that surrounds the church is stable and growing. It has not always been this way, but, and again based on statistics, the city is growing, and people are moving in. The people that are choosing to live here are, for the most part, professionals with well-paying jobs; they feel some security in their position and are moving here to put down roots.
However, even though there is some security in their position they still worry about job security and their health as well as the health of their families. These are their top concerns, employment, or lack of jobs, and health. Basically, they are asking the question, what will happen to my family if something happens to me?
I am not sure if we as a congregation can answer that question, but this is a genuine concern for the folks that might make their way to our doorstep. From a spiritual standpoint, I would ask them, as my spiritual director asks me, have you done everything to prepare if something does happen? Do you have adequate health insurance? Do you have sufficient savings? Do you have a will? Do you have life insurance? All of the practical questions. If the answer to all or most of these is yes, then what we are worrying about is out of our control. Now intellectually I know this, but in my heart, I still worry. You see sometimes the heart outweighs the intellect and controls us.
Way back in the ancient days of the 1980s, the singer Bobby McFadden had a hit song called “don’t worry, be happy.” The song was a knock-off of an Indian Sage from the 1800s whose mantra was similar, but it was about peace rather than happiness. However, the message is simple, don’t worry, be happy. Always easier to say than to do. Of course, now that recreational marijuana use is legal just below the board in Massachusetts, there are a lot of happy people. However, I will leave that for another day.
In the gospel passage, we heard read this morning we hear Jesus telling us not to worry about our lives. He tells us we should not worry about having food or clothing because God will take care of us. Now that might be okay for you and me as I can see we all have something to wear this morning and I am making an assumption here, but we all had something to eat this morning. So Jesus sounds a little harsh and uncaring, and if you think that you are right, he does seem harsh, but Jesus was not speaking in a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. Jesus was not talking to the anawim, the “least of these” Jesus was speaking to ordinary folks that have food, have shelter, have clothing, and have jobs, they have all this, but they continuously want more.
Jesus is telling them, and us, to be satisfied with what you have and that we should not always be looking for the next thing, the bigger house, the better car, the next gadget that will break in three weeks. I can only imagine what Jesus would have to say about the likes of Black Friday! There is nothing wrong with wanting security and comfort, but what does it cost us to get there? Are we gaining comfort and safety if we are maxed out on credit cards? Sometimes the unforeseen happens, and our preparation has given us those credit cards to use, but are we using them in an emergency or are we using them to keep up with the Joneses.
I am not sure how many of you have heard of Dave Ramsey, but he is a financial guru of sorts that helps folks get out of debt, and avoid debt, by teaching them about money and value for the dollar. He bases most of what he teaches on Christian principals and just plain old smarts. He desires that no one use credit and we only use cash, not sure how practical that is but this is what he teaches. I do not always agree with him, but one this I do agree with is his mantra that we “should live like no one else so we can live like no one else.” In other words, we do what we have to do today, so in the future, we do not have to worry so much about those things. So we stay within our means today, so tomorrow we can live a little better.
But back to the gospel passage.
Jesus tells us at the end that the stuff we really should be worried about is the kingdom of God, righteousness, and justice. Care for our spirituality, living a righteous life, not a self-righteous life but a righteous one, and justice for all of humanity. These are the things that we should be concerned about and working towards not a bigger house and a bigger car and the latest gadget that will break in three weeks, but, and you thought you were not going to hear about it, love of God and love of neighbor.
What Jesus is saying here is, God will take care of you … so take care of God’s justice in the world. There is more to life than concern for daily needs, though this may prove difficult for some. But Jesus expects his followers to put forward energy into things that give more meaning to life. We must strive to discern how God is working in the world “God’s kingdom” and how to participate in acts of justice on God’s behalf “God’s righteousness.” Beyond that, everything else will take care of itself. Or, to summarize Jesus, God will deal with the rest.