Friday, February 2, 2018

Worry, Who Me? (Matthew 6:25-34) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A father passed by his teenage son's bedroom and was dumbfounded to see the bed nicely made up and everything neat and tidy.  He saw an envelope propped up on the pillow.  He picked it up and started reading.

Dear Dad:
I decided to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with you and Mom.  I've been finding real passion with Joan, and she is so nice.  Even though I never told you and mom about her, I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercings, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes, prison record and the fact that she is so much older than I am.  She really gets to me.  She says I’m old for my age and that we are going to be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood—just enough for the whole winter.  We share a dream of having many children.

Please don't worry, Dad. I'm 15 now and I know how to take care of myself.  I'm sure we'll be back to visit someday so you can get to know your grandchildren.  Your loving son.  P.S. None of the above is true.  I'm over at Tommy's house.  I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life to worry about than my report card which you will find in my desk drawer.  I love you Dad!

So do you ever worry about things?   Worry, Who Me?   Someone said: “There are three kinds of people in world – those who worry about little things, those who worry about big things, and those who worry about everything.”   Which category do you fit into?

Why do we worry?   I'll tell you why, because there is a plethora of things to worry about in this life.  We worry about our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, our health, the flu, aging, our jobs, our finances, our education, college tuition, social security, Medicare, government shut-downs, disease, illness, crime, floods, fires, earthquakes, environmental threats, the economy, global warming, terrorism, nuclear war, and the Padres winning.  If you weren’t worried when you came into church this morning you are now.

We worry about things we can control and about things we can't control and often are confused about which is which.  We worry about things that might happen, that have rarely happened, and that have never happened.

Worry appears to be intrinsic to human nature.  It reflects our basic insecurity as humans about the world that we inhabit.   So if this is true, is worry a trivial subject?   Isn’t life is worrisome?   Jesus thought so.  Jesus included the subject of worry when he preached the Sermon on the Mount to the crowds.   It was a real issue, a genuine concern for Jesus as he listened to the crowds.  Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.”

Why is worrying about things a problem?  It saps our strength and drains us of energy, joy, and hope.   We know it’s detrimental to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.   Worry can paralyze us with fear.

Now think about what Jesus is NOT saying in these words.  He is not saying: “Life doesn't have any troubles or problems, it's just your imagination.”  He is not saying: “Life is always fair.”   He is not saying: “Everything always turns out all right.”    Jesus is not saying: “It's OK to make irresponsible decisions and to lead a reckless life.”  He is not saying: “Poor choices don’t have consequences.”   He is not saying: “You don't have to work hard; you can get by on your charm or good looks.”  He is not saying: “Don’t plan things out for the future.”  Jesus isn't saying any of these things.  What is Jesus saying?

First, the Greek word Jesus uses is merimnan; it means to “worry anxiously.”  Jesus is not speaking about our daily normal passing worries and concerns.   Rather, a good translation of the Greek is: “Anxiety, anxious-worry, fearful, fretful, vexing worry.”  It’s the kind of worry that plagues you, that haunts your every waking moment, that negatively affects your spirit and health, that can harm relationships, that confounds your thinking, that wakes you up at night.  It’s the kind of burdensome, tormented, and all-consuming anxiety that sucks the joy out of you.

I remember my wife Nancy telling me about taking her seat on a flight bound to California.   This woman sits down next to her, extremely agitated.   The woman said:  “I hate to fly. I just saw something extremely upsetting but I won't say what, until after we land.”  She proceeds to order drink after drink during the flight.  After the plane lands, the woman turned to Nancy and said:  “Did you know a woman was flying this plane?

Second, Jesus says that “anxious worry” is useless, futile, pointless, unproductive.  It is a colossal waste of time and energy.   Matthew 6:27 points this out.  The meaning is ambiguous.   It can mean that no one by worrying can grow taller or add a cubit or 18 inches to his height.   It can also mean that no one by worrying, can live longer or extend one’s life.  You may add time to your life by eating a healthy diet and exercise, but you won't add one day, or one hour or one minute by worrying.  Someone said that worry is like a fog bank.  Fog can blanket a city for blocks and be as much as 100 feet deep.  But if we were to take that fog and change it into water, it would only fill up a single glass.

Third, Jesus is saying remember this truth, you are of ultimate value to God, you are precious in God's sight.  “Look at the birds of the air, your heavenly Father feeds them, are you not much more valuable than them?”  Knowing this, believing this, trusting this is crucial for faith.  It is saying be assured that God gave us life and God will give us that which we need to sustain life.

One way to remember this is through prayer.  Worry is passive, prayer is active.  Pray unceasingly.  Pray for a life-giving faith.   Phil. 4:6-7 says:  “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  I love this verse.  Peace is one of God's greatest gifts.  You are of ultimate value to God, don't lose your humor and your joy.  Include God in the details, in the little problems, as well as in the major crises.

The letter of I Peter says: “Cast all your anxiety on God, because he cares for you.”  There is that same word again, anxious worry.  Ask God to unburden you, to free you, to deliver you from the anxious worry that is weighing you down.

Fourth, Jesus is saying that you and I are to put God first in our lives.  God is to be the center, not ourselves, not our family, not our career, not our money.  “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you.

We are to center our lives on God.  Is God at the center or at the periphery of your life?   If we let something or someone else become our number one priority, it will eventually become our number one worry.  Concentrating upon God, upon God's kingdom, upon accepting and following God's will, will help to defeat the burden of worry that you are carrying.

Finally, Jesus is saying cultivate the art of living one day at a time.   Live each day as it comes, handle each demand as it comes, carry out each task as it appears, and don't worry about the unknown future.  “Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will bring worries of its own, today's trouble is enough for today.”   I say amen to that.   Plan for tomorrow, set goals for tomorrow, dream dreams for tomorrow, think about tomorrow, take action for tomorrow, but don't allow tomorrow to consume you with worry.

I close with this bit of Irish wisdom about worry titled “WHY WORRY  There are only two things to worry about - either you are well or you are sick.  If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about.  But if you are sick, there are two things to worry about.  Either you will get well or you will die.  If you get well, there is nothing to worry about.  If you die, there are only two things to worry about.  Either you will go to heaven or hell.  If you go to heaven hands with friends, you won’t have time to worry.  Amen!

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