The Eighth Sunday after Epiphany (February 27, 2011)

Lessons: Isaiah 49:8-16a Psalm 131 (2) 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 St. Matthew 6:24-34

Prayer of the Day: God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children, and you know already what we need.  In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts, that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 “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? 26 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? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 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? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

St. Matthew 6:24-34, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

It takes a worried man, to sing a worried song. I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.

I always think of this lyric (from the Carter Family Singers “Worried Man Blues” — a top selling record in 1930) when I study the sixth chapter of St. Matthew. (either that, or Bobby McFerrin)

We live, surrounded by worried people, and it causes us to be worried sometimes. Worried that our children may be harmed, or may miss something. Worried that others are more successful than we are. Worried that dangerous forces in the world will affect us adversely. Worried that we’ll fall victim to a faltering economy. Worried that poor health may strike us. Worried that our favorite sports teams won’t do well this season. Worried…

We’re not the first to be worried, though. There was worry a-plenty in Jesus’ time. Farmers worried about whether the rains would come. Widows worried about their next meal. Kings worried about the invading armies of neighbor nations. Parents worried about getting their daughters married off to the right men. Everybody worried about disease and injury.

In worried times, whether our own times or times long past, it is easy to become consumed by worry. It is easy to allow worry to overtake us. It is easy to be ruled by fear. In the face of all this, Jesus says, “Do not worry.” This is a message which is easy to misinterpret. His call to reject worry is not glib or Pollyannaish sentiment. Jesus nowhere says, “Don’t care about the troubles of this world.” Jesus nowhere says, “Don’t try to make a difference.” Jesus doesn’t call us to careless or thoughtless living.

His message is actually the exact the opposite of that. He teaches that the life of Christian discipleship will be challenging, exhausting, and even dangerous. He calls his disciples (then and now) to be fully engaged with the world, with all its difficulties and complexities. Yet, at the same time, discipleship in the name of Jesus is not ruled by fear (fear of worldly trouble or fear of eternal damnation). It is ruled by hope; a hope that is grounded in the power of the resurrection; a hope that is given to those whose first interest is the Kingdom of God.

When our lives are centered on the power and presence of God, we live with great hope. We trust that no matter the current circumstances, with God’s help all will be well.

We live in times when there are perfectly reasonable reasons to worry about the future. Yet for those of us who are Christians, the power of the resurrection is even greater than the dangers that surround us. When our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, it is our faith in God’s grace that allows us to face even the gravest dangers this world can dish out, and stand unafraid.

Our Christian faith does not assure us that life will be easy and uncomplicated. But it does assure us that along the journey of this life, we never walk alone. God is with us every step of the way. May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace to hold fast to this belief, and be not afraid.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What worries did the people in Jesus’ time have?
  2. What affect did their worrying have on how they lived?
  3. What causes people to be worried in our world today?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I worry most about?
  2. What would it be like to turn those worries over to God?
  3. What particular worry will I turn over to God first?