Sunday, May 25, 2008
Sermon - Pentecost 2 - Matthew 6:24-34
“Don't worry, be happy. Aint got no cash, aint got no style? Aint got no gal to make you smile? Don't worry. Be happy. Cause when you worry your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down. Don't worry, be happy”
So go the lyrics of a once-popular song you'll sometimes hear on the radio, even today. Light-hearted fun that it is, it's not exactly the same sentiment that Jesus expresses here in Matthew 6, from the Sermon on the Mt.
Jesus does say not to worry. But more than a trite aphorism designed to put a spring in our step and a smile on our face – Jesus' words about worry are deeply rooted in an understanding of God – whose good and gracious will is always to care for us, his people. Let's consider today the savior's words on worry.
First, can we agree that worry is a problem for everyone? I often observe that worry is the pet sin of mothers – who love to worry about their children. But the truth is, we all worry about tomorrow. We may not worry so much about what we will eat or wear, as many did in Jesus' day. We may have different worries. But we worry all the same.
Worrying about finances – especially in these uncertain times, with food and gas prices rising. We worry about tomorrow. We worry about our health. What will the test results show? Will I make it to retirement, to see my children's children, or even another year on this earth?
We worry about what people think about us. Will they like me? Will they remember me? Will they hate me?
Maybe you worry about your church – and how we will get everything done around here with finances tight and expenses getting higher. Maybe you worry about terrorism and the threats of those who would harm Americans abroad or at home.
We worry about our children – will they be safe, successful, and financially stable? Will they get into the right school, get the right job, marry the right person (and stay married)? Will they have children and will those children ever learn to behave? Will our kids keep the faith, go to church and treasure the values we raised them with, or will they go their own way?
And we might even worry about our own standing with God. Will God hold my sins against me? Will I have to answer for those deep, dark things I have done? Will I really be going to heaven after all, or might he change his mind or something?
Yes, we could go on and on about our worries. They come in many flavors. But then, we also try to mask them, don't we, rationalizing them by saying, “Oh, I'm not worried, I'm just concerned”. Really? Sometimes that's just a smokescreen to make our worry seem pious and wise.
How many of the things we worry about never come to fruition anyway? How much time and energy is spent on this fruitless and wasteful endeavor of worry?
Do you think of worry as a mere character flaw or foible? Something that everyone does and gosh-golly, oh well, it would be nice if we didn't do it so Jesus is just giving us a helpful hint here. Is that why we use those cute little monikers like “worry wort” to chide someone - “don't worry, be happy!”
Or do you see worry as a sin? After all, he tells us not to do it, and we do it anyway. Isn't this yet another form of willful disobedience flowing from the sinful human heart? Do you think of worry as being against God's will – a sin for which we should repent? We confess sins of word and deed and thought – and worry should be among those sins of thought.
So here's the heart of the question of worry. Do we trust God?
Do we trust God to provide for our daily needs? Jesus says we should. Look at the birds and the lilies – these relatively insignificant creations – and how God provides for them. Don't you think God will care for you all the more, since you are worth so much more than they are?
The good news is that God provides for us – and does so abundantly.
He gives us daily bread so abundant we lose track. Especially here, in our day and age and place. We Americans have, historically speaking, far less cause to worry than most people in the world ever had. And yet we find ways to do it.
He provides for us, though we don't deserve it. It's true – “the rain falls even on the wicked”. God provides for us all only out of his “fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me”. What we deserve is death and punishment. What we get is fresh vegetables and gourmet cheeseburgers - and big-screen TVs, SUVs and i-phones and houses and cottages up north and clothes that look spiffy and gadgets and gizmos and products galore. Not to mention family and friends and a good reputation, land, animals and all that we have.
But more than this, he provides for us, first and foremost for our salvation through Jesus Christ. We have no need to worry before God, because of Jesus. We have no need to fear the future or the judgment day, because Christ is our savior. God the Father, who demands payment for sin, is also the one to provide it. He sends his Son to shed his blood to make everything right and new. When worried Issac asked his father Abraham, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” he might have suspected what his father was about to do. But Abraham spoke the words of faith, “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice”. And of course, our faithful God did. He provided the ram in the thicket for Issac, and he provides the Lamb of God on the cross for us all.
So the call to “not worry” is much more than a slogan or soundbyte of Jesus. He's telling us more than just to put on a happy face. He is calling us to repent of our lack of faith, and to turn to him and to God the Father in faith. He promises us that faith will be well placed. He gives evidence from the world of nature, and he puts his blood where his mouth is when he shows God's ultimate care for us at the cross. He gives us good reasons to not worry. He cares for us. He provides for us.
So don't worry about tomorrow. Don't even worry about today. Instead trust in the good and gracious God, our Father, through his Son our Savior Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And be at peace in him. Amen.