Today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:24-34) is one that comes at a very needy time in my life.
Jesus tells us
“Do not be anxious about your life”. (Matthew 6:25)
This particular piece of Gospel can be difficult to understand; in a world filled with strife and war and troubles, we are told not to worry. The main crux of the Gospel is that God does not want His people to be anxious or worried; He wants to free us from anxiety. His will for us today and every day is that we wake each morning not anxious about anything, that we have a deep sense of serenity and peace and security. If we seek the Kingdom of God, we’ll will have full freedom and peace and joy and adventure.
That sounds great, doesn’t it. . . a day, a week, a month, an eternity with no worries?
But because we are human, that is very hard for us to accept and live into.
As ordination approaches for me, I am fraught with anxiety. When the canons for ordination were changed in 2006, an ordinand to the diaconate could not be ordained unless they had a placement in a parish. Just last week I found out that the third potential parish for my placement decided they did not want me. In fact, a member of the vestry promised to leave the church if the rector brought in a lesbian clergy. One of the other potential parishes also had an issue with my sexuality, and the other one didn’t want a deacon at all.
And I am not supposed to worry. We are just three weeks from my ordination and I still do not have a placement.
Am I worried?
So, needless to say, this Scripture talks directly to me. . . Imagine that.
God always seems to have a way of placing things in front of me when I need them the most.
Jesus goes into great detail about why we should not worry, giving five reasons:
First, we should not be anxious about our life, what we eat and what we wear. Food brings us pleasure in its taste but also provides us the nourishment to live a long life. And clothing makes us look nice and we get praise from others. But if we are anxious about these material things, we lose sight of the greatness of life. We get so hung up in the physical that we forget the eternity that we find through Jesus.
Second, we should not worry who will take care of us. Jesus sites the birds of the field that somehow survive by God’s bounty even though they appear not to have to work. In fact, they seem downright lazy, but they are still fed. And they don’t worry about tomorrow. They know that God will provide.
Third, — does worry add even a second to your life? NO! In fact, it probably decreases your lifespan. It only makes you miserable while you are dealing with everyday life. Trust me, I can tell you all the worrying and fretting I have done in the last six months about my placement has done nothing to get me one, and has certainly stolen a lot of time from me that I could have been accomplishing something constructive. But, it is so hard not to; we are human and that is one of our frailties.
The fourth reason not to worry is illustrated in an oft quoted line:
Consider the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28)
The love and care God has for these beautiful flowers tells us that God also cares for us in the same way. A field may be full of beautiful flowers today but dies in the fall. Think about the message to us that not only does God love us, but has given us eternal life through Jesus. What a marvelous blessing and gift.
Fifth is the assurance that God knows what we need and will provide. Anxiety about things of the world shows that we don’t think God knows our needs. Anxiety shows we are too close to the material things and not close enough to God. We have to remember that the world does not offer eternal ‘things’, but if “we seek first his kingdom and righteousness, all things will be ours”.
So today, this sermon is as much for me as it is a reminder to everyone in this congregation. God did not call me to the diaconate to let me study and struggle through obstacles for five years to leave me hanging. God knows what I need and what you need. All I know for sure is that we all need to trust in God. We just need to trust in him and we too will can enjoy a life of calmness and beauty, just like the birds of the air or the lilies of the field.
Delivered at Church Of The Good Shepherd, Athens, OH 23 May 2007