Psalm 27:1-6; Matthew 6:24-34
How many times have you been told, “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”? Bobby McFerrin had a popular song about that. Don’t worry, be happy. We remember the refrain, but don’t focus so much on the verses. The verses mention some things we worry about: no home, no money, no girlfriend. The point of the song is that there will always be trouble in life, but when we worry about it we make the trouble double, and bring others down with us.
The message of the Psalm is much the same. In several of the verses the psalmist mentions an enemy approaching, camping nearby, rising up against him. Is he being attacked, so he is worried? Has he been attacked recently so he is wary of another attack?
He seems to waver between worry and trust. He says, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation. Why should I be afraid!? God will shelter me and hide me. Even though I am threatened, I will trust in God.’
In the Gospel reading, Jesus encourages us to not worry. Even the birds and the flowers are taken care of by God. Why do we worry that God will not take care of us, too?
Well, we worry because going through hard times is a challenge, because we know people die, people lose their homes, people are mistreated. There is nothing to assure us that just because we believe in God we won’t die, or lose our home, or be mistreated.
We worry because we don’t trust that if we die, we will be better off than we are now. We worry because we don’t trust that if we lose our home, there will be another place for us to live. We worry that if we are mistreated, we will heal from our physical and psychological injuries; and we worry that the ones who are mistreating us will not be punished.
When it comes down to the heart of the problem, we worry because we aren’t always in control, and we like to be in control. We don’t trust enough in God to make everything all right for us. We want to tell God how to fix whatever is going on, because we know better than God the best way to fix everything. We want God to do what we want, when we want it, and in the way we want it.
When God doesn’t do just what we want, we decide that God isn’t trustworthy. Yet, Scripture is filled with stories about how God answered prayer when God’s people were worried. You know these stories.
The Jews left Egypt with Moses. After months of wandering, the people were hungry. They were worried. They grumbled, ‘we were better off in Egypt where we at least had onions to eat!’ God met with Moses and said, ‘I’ve got this. In the morning and in the evening, there will be manna to pick and eat.’
Saul’s army was being defeated by the Philistines, especially a giant of a man named Goliath. They worried it would be the end of the Jewish people. Instead of strengthening Saul’s army, God sent a youth named David with a slingshot and a deadly aim.
Paul and Silas have been arrested for preaching about Jesus after the town council told them not to. They could have been worried, but apparently they weren’t. They spent the night singing hymns and praising God. Then there was an earthquake, and they could have run away but they stayed to convert the jailer and his family.
And, of course, there’s the biggest one of all. Jesus was dead. The disciples are huddled in a room, worried they, too, will be arrested and crucified. On the third day, they discover the tomb is empty and Jesus has been raised from the dead.
God responds to our worries with real answers. Unfortunately it seems like the answers are not always the ones we want. There are several people on my personal prayer list with cancer. I want God to cure them, heal them totally from their diseases. And, perhaps the doctors and medical teams will bring about healing. But even if they are eventually healed, they need our strength, our prayers, our energy. And sometimes the meals and rides we can offer while they are enduring the side effects of the poisons doctors put into their bodies.
We, you and I, are God’s answers to prayer, God’s response to worry. Families and congregations can grow closer together as they unite to support loved ones afflicted with cancer or facing the loss of a family member or dealing with a house fire.
As a seminary student living on my own in Chicago, there were times when I was worried about paying my bills. I had scholarships for tuition, but the living expenses were sometimes a challenge. A car repair threw the budget totally out of whack. Many of you know how that is.
God answered my worries with checks in the mail. I got something for my birthday, or Christmas, and paid the electric bill. Twice, the Women of the ELCA in a congregation raised funds and sent me a check for about $100. I probably bought textbooks with that money.
Because of these answers to my worries, I know I can trust God to take care of me. These were little things, small gifts, but they came just in time.
We often don’t know it’s God’s answer to our worries until we look back. When in your life has God answered your worries with some little answer you weren’t expecting? When has God taken action when you weren’t even worried?
When has someone called or emailed or texted just when you needed an encouraging word or someone to talk to?
When has someone offered to care for your children or ill spouse when you needed to get away? Or offered to pick up something at the store when you couldn’t get away?
When have you slowed your car without thinking about it, and avoided an accident because of it?
When have you gone to the doctor for a mild ailment, and discovered there was something major going wrong?
When have you been sad or feeling blue, and God gave you a rainbow, or a beautiful view?
Other people might say these are coincidences. I call these God-incidences. There are lots of times when God is active in our lives, and we don’t give God the credit. All these little and big things add up to proving God is trustworthy. They all prove that God is our light, if we only think to look for that light in our lives. Amen