Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve

November 21, 2012
St. Mark's Lutheran Church

Matthew 6.25-33

+ For those of you who know me, it’s probably not hard for you to guess I was not your typical little boy when I was eight or nine or ten years. For various reasons, I was not your typical little boy. We won’t get into too many of those various reasons.

But I was not typical for one big reason. From about the age of seven or eight, I was a chronic worrier. I worried about everything. You name it, I worried about it. Every rational and irrational thing you can think of, I worried about it.

Around the time of my eighth birthday, there was a huge hotel fire during a blizzard in Breckenridge, Minnesota. About twenty or so people died in that fire. For years afterward, that fire worried me. Every time my family and I went on a trip and stayed at a hotel, I couldn’t sleep, afraid that a fire was going to break out. Whenever my father was gone on a trip, I worried that the hotel he was staying in was going to catch on fire.

That was just one of many things I worried about at the time in my life. I worried about getting on the school bus (I worried it was going to crash—there were no seat belts on the stupid thing!), or swimming in the swimming pool, or whatever.

Well, eventually, all that worrying began to wreak havoc on my body and I started developing very severe stomach problems. At first, it was thought that I was having some kind of problem with my appendix. Then the doctors and my parents starting being concerned it was something more serious. Finally, one very insightful doctor figured it out. He realized I had an ulcer. There I was, nine years old, and I had an ulcer. And it was believed at that time that it was a result of all that stupid worrying.

And worrying is a stupid, stupid thing. In tonight’s Gospel, we find Jesus addressing the issue of worrying. Obviously, there were some in his immediate circle of followers and friends who were worried. And he addresses their worries. But he addresses their worries in a way that leaves little doubt. There’s no sugar-coating here. There are no parables about worrying here. He’s quite blunt. He’s to-the-point.

“Therefore I tell you,” he says, “do not worry about what you will eat, or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”

And then, as though to drive it all home, we repeats that command, “Do not worry” two more times in this passage.

For us, as followers of Jesus, he is essentially telling us that there is no room in our lives as Christians for worrying. Worrying is not an option for us, who believe, as followers of Jesus, that God is ultimately in control.

For me, as a child, my worrying became almost a kind of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Worrying was my way of controlling what seemed to me to be uncontrollable in my life. Bad things happened, and I didn’t understand why. Bad things happened and I couldn’t control those bad things from happening. Worrying about my fears was a way for me to control my fears in some way. If I worried enough, I rationalized, maybe what I feared would not happen.

But the fact is, by worrying about our fears, we give our fears ultimate control. When we worry about our fears, we make idols of our fears. When we worry, we have not put God in that place God deserves in our lives. Worrying goes hand-in-hand with fear. And fear is not an option for us as followers of Jesus.

This presidential election earlier this month was a prime example for me of how fear is still an issue in many adult’s lives. A very dear friend on mine—a man who is very intelligent and a faithful church-goer—became almost irrational in the days leading up the election. He was certain by the day the election rolled around that if one particular candidate won (or was re-elected), every terrible, horrible fear that could be imagined would be brought on this nation. And, he further feared, he would eventually lose his job, his benefits, essentially his future. I don’t think the two presidential candidates went into the election worrying as much as my friend did. He’s over it for the most part now, but it was shocking for me to see how much fear a person can live under in their lives.

For us as Christians, the fact we don’t need to worry about our fears is that we know—no matter what life may throw at us, no matter what bad things happen to us in this life (and they WILL happen to us)—ultimately God is in control and it will all, somehow, work out in the end. Don’t ask me now how, or in what way. But it will all somehow work out in the end.

When we take a good, long, hard look at the things that are worrying us on this Thanksgiving Eve, we simply need to change our perspective. We need to look at the big picture. The things we are worrying about tonight will probably not be worries for us a year from now. Or five years from now. Or ten years from now. And, let me assure you, fifty or seventy-five years from now, they will definitely not be worrying you.

But a year from now, or five years from now, or ten years from now, or fifty or seventy-five years from now, God will still be in control. And good will always triumph. That is the consolation we have. That is why Jesus is saying to us, again and again, do not worry.

Do not worry.

Let us, on this Thanksgiving Eve, not only hear, but heed those all-powerful words of Jesus to us.

“Do not worry.”

As we gather to consider all that we are thankful for, all the gifts we have been given in this life, all the love that has been given to us and those whom we have been fortunate to love—when we think about all that God has granted to us in this life—why would we worry? See, how God has truly provided for us. See how God has provided for us exactly what we have needed at this time and in this place. See how God has provided us with all the goods we didn’t even have the frame of mind to ask for.

Or to put it in the words of Jesus, “strive first for the kingdom of God, and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you…”

God knows our needs before we ask. Our job, as followers of Jesus and lovers of God, is to trust in that goodness of God in our lives. And when we do, we will see that goodness in our midst. That goodness will be evident all around us in all that we have. And when we recognition it as such, we will know what true thankfulness is.

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