07 Pentecost 02 Second Sunday After Pentecost Matthew 6.24-34
Come on, What are you afraid of? Have you ever been asked that question before? And what are the situations that you usually find yourself in when you are being asked that question? Well, they are the ones where it seems that fear is not a bad option. You know what I mean. Someone wants you to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, or ride a rollercoaster that is so steep and fast that your hair stands straight back, or maybe they want you to go through a haunted house where people will jump out at you left and right. Whatever the situation may be, more often than not, when someone asks you this question, “what are you afraid of?” There is a pretty good answer.
Jesus asks a series of questions, but they were not about fear. Instead they are about worry. Now these can be some difficult verses to read. But they are important for us in our lives. They occur as part of Jesus’ talking about the lives of his followers and what those lives are to look like. He tells us about how to pray, and how to give to the poor. He tells how to fast and the importance of material possessions. And here he talks about worry.
What worries you? What are the concerns that you have in your life? How are things at home? How are the finances? How is the family? How is your job going? How is school going? Are things going as you planned that they would? There are a lot of things in life that concern us and weigh us down. And they are not all bad things that we worry about, we want to make sure that our families are well cared for, that that they food to eat and clothes to wear. We want to make sure that they have shelter. There is such a thing as using our resources wisely and planning and all of that kind of thing.
But Jesus isn’t telling us not to make good use of our resources or not to plan or not to be wise, but he tells us not to worry. That is something much different. Worry is misplaced trust. Worry says that I do not believe that God is big enough or powerful enough to handle my problems. Or if I do believe that he is big enough and powerful enough to handle it, then worry says that I do not believe that he will do anything about my problems. I don’t know which one is worse.
It makes sense if you think about it. Everything that we worry about is something that weighs us down. The more we worry, the more burdened we become. It doesn’t matter what it is that we are worried about, money, health, decisions that need to be made, decisions that were made, work, ministry, children it builds up and up and what happens? It becomes hard to function, it becomes hard to live. We get sick to our stomachs, it is all we can think about, it consumes us, and what is accomplished by it? By the way, I am speaking about this from experience, and one that is a lot closer than I would have liked it to be. So what is accomplished by worrying? Well, really nothing. How many times have you come out of a tough situation and said, “Let me tell you. I am sure glad that I was able to worry my way through that. I mean I don’t think that it would have gone as smoothly as it did, if I had not worried about. When it comes to trouble, worrying is the only way to go.”
And so here, as Jesus is talking to his followers he isn’t saying, “Don’t worry. It is bad and you should not do it.” And deep inside he’s thinking, “they are going to lose some sleep over this one because not only will they not be able to not worry, but now they will be able to feel guilty about the worrying that they do do.” He’s saying, “Don’t worry. Because your father in heaven knows all that you need to support your body and life. And not only does he know that you need it, but he will provide it.”
Now lest we fall into the trap of thinking that we have to earn the care that God gives to us, as if to say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” But that is actually nowhere in the Bible. Not even close, Benjamin Franklin said it. Just as we do not earn the forgiveness and salvation that we have in Jesus Christ, so we do not earn the help, care and support of our bodies and lives from our God. And the example that Jesus gives us are the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Birds don’t punch a time clock. They don’t produce anything, other than business for car washes, and yet God feeds them and provides for them.
The grass does not do much either, except give us a reason to go to the laundry mat, and yet, God clothes them with some of the most beautiful flowers. How much more valuable is the life of a human being. Valuable enough that God would send Jesus to die on the cross to bring about forgiveness life and salvation. If a human being is valuable enough for that to happen, then God will most certainly take care of us and provide for all of our needs. Not because we deserve it, not because we have a special standing or spot with God, but because God is who he is.
When Jesus tells those who follow him not to worry, this is not a statement about those who follow him as much as it is a statement about the God who promises to care and provide for his creation. It is not about you and me. And so where it is easy to be condemned by these verses, because, let’s face it, raise your hand if you have never ever worried about something before. What these verses are saying is that you may know the freedom from worry, because God will and does provide, always. Always. Always.
Jesus sums it up with these words, “And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! 31 "So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32 Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33 and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”
Living for him and making the Kingdom of God our primary concern. The way that it is worded in our Celebrates is very nice, “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be give to you as well.” If we were going to summarize this it would be, “first things first.” So what does it mean to talk about the kingdom of God? And how in the world do we keep it first, or strive for it first. Because having been freed from the burdens and concerns of life, we now have time to live for God and his kingdom.
Actually the phrase “kingdom of God” is somewhat misleading. What comes to mind when you hear “kingdom of God?” I am willing to bet that for most people they hear this as a reference to heaven. But if you think about it, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense does it? If heaven is a gift that we have by grace for the sake of Jesus, how are we able to strive for it? Well, the answer is actually quite simple. The “kingdom of God” is not a reference to a place, rather it is a way of talking about the reign of God. R-E-I-G-N of God. God rules and reigns he has all control, power and authority, he is about the work of bringing all of creation back. In the reign of God, sins are forgiven. Relationships are restored. Love binds together. Service takes place. Healing is given. In Jesus the Kingdom of God or the Reign of God has come near, physically and everywhere he went and everything he did, pointed to this mission and work of God restoring of all creation to himself. He has brought you and me and all who follow Jesus into this reign and bringing us into this reign we are restored to God.
Having been restored to God, we are then made his ministers of reconciliation so that as we go out into the world, we go as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. This is no small task, and it is no small matter, but it is a great honor and privilege that we get to be a part of this. In this kingdom is life, true life, life fully and life as it was intended to be lived.
When we spend our time worrying, we are focusing on ourselves and on our own needs. When we are live for God and for his kingdom, we are focusing on the world and proclaiming God’s love in our words and actions. We need to make this proclamation in our homes, at work, at school, in our families and in all aspects of our lives. This doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything and go into church work, but to have in your lives, as the most important thing God. This is heard in the words that we speak, and in the way that we speak them. This is seen in the love of our actions, as we help, care for and serve those whom God has placed into our lives.
This is not to say that nothing that comes at us in life will tempt us to worry. Because we will indeed face those difficult situations, but we never face those alone. Our God will always be with us, he will always provide for us, and he will never ever forget us. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Amen.