Sunday’s sermon: Second Enemy of Gratitude: Worry

worry

Texts used – Psalm 19; Matthew 6:25-34

  • This week = week 2 of our stewardship sermon series “Enemies of Gratitude” → recap
    • Talking about gratitude – the “why” behind stewardship → what inspires us to give of our time, talents, resources, and devotion when it comes to the church
      • Last week: We give of ourselves to this church because we are thankful for its presence – in our lives, in our journeys of faith, in this community. We’re thankful for the people here. We’re thankful for the mission and ministry done both in and through this church. We’re thankful for the ways that we encounter God here.
      • BUT there are things that sometimes get in the way of our ability to both feel that gratitude and to express it à these are the enemies/obstacles of gratitude that we’ll be talking about
        • Last week = nostalgia → talked about how we can certainly be blessed by lessons from the past but also how looking only to the past can impede our progress into the future
        • This week = worry → going to talk about how worry can immobilize us in the face of God’s mission in the world
  • And so, as I often do, I want to introduce you to a book this morning. It’s called Wemberly Worried.[1] Now, Wemberly is a little mouse who worries about everything – big things and little things, scary things and silly things. She worries that everyone will have the same costume that she does, but when she shows up at the Halloween party, she worries that no one has the same costume that she does. She worries that no one will come to her birthday party, and then when all of her friends show up, she worries there won’t be enough cake. Her mother and father and grandmother are always telling her that she worries too much, but poor Wemberly just can’t help it. She worries and she worries and she worries. All. The. Time.
    • Then comes Wemberly’s biggest, most worrisome day of all: first day of school à causes Wemberly even more worries
      • About her teacher
      • About snack time
      • About having someone to play with
      • About finding the bathroom
      • “What if no one else wears stripes? What if no one else brings a doll? What if the room smells bad? What if I have to cry?”
    • Wemberly’s teacher introduces her to someone special: Jewel
      • Jewel is standing all alone … just like Wemberly
      • Jewel is wearing stripes … just like Wemberly
      • Jewel is holding a doll … just like Wemberly
      • Jewel has a very worried look on her face … just like Wemberly
      • And before you know it, Jewel and Wemberly have become fast friends. They do everything together, and in their companionship, they are able to let go of their worries enough to really enjoy all of the things going on around them – story time, snack time, art time, music time, even recess.
    • Friends, as individuals and as the church, too often we find ourselves in a Wemberly state of mind – a place where all of our joy, all of our strength, all of our ability to engage is eaten up by worry.
      • Can even become paralyzing – story of trying to choose a Barbie dress when I was a kid/boys trying to choose car at HyVee this week → It wasn’t a lack of good choices that caused such moments of frozen indecision. It was a worry – a fear – that we would make the “wrong choice,” a choice that we would later regret. As individuals and as the church, how often does that type of worry and fear direct the decisions we do – or don’t! – make in our lives? As individuals and as the church, how often do we let that kind of worry and fear determine our course?
  • Worry = issue addressed by Jesus in Gospel reading
    • Context:
      • Part of the Sermon on the Mount
        • Collection of Jesus’ teachings on morality
        • Most notably begun with the beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”[2]
        • Also includes the Lord’s Prayer
      • Today’s Scripture reading is also part of that teaching. And it’s all about how fruitless it is to worry. – opening of text: “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?”[3]
        • Goes on to speak of how God …
          • Keeps birds fed
          • Gilding the lilies of the field in beauty
          • But they do not work or toil or strain or worry about these things being done. They don’t concern themselves with what tomorrow may bring for them. God simply takes care of them.
    • Jesus’ point: Aren’t you worth much more than [the birds]? … If God dresses the grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?[4] → confession: my first reaction to this passage has always been discomfort and maybe a little irritation
      • Part of me wants to say, “Easy for you to say, Jesus … you’re Jesus! You’re God’s very own son. What about us ‘normal people’?”
        • BUT … remember what Jesus has just been through (formidable temptation in the wilderness) and what Jesus will go through (suffering, humiliating death on the cross)
        • Realize that this is my worry talking – my anxiety, my fear, my lack of trust
      • Other source of discomfort: “people of weak faith” = phrase that has always troubled a lot of people → The Sermon on the Mount comes directly after Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights and been tested by the devil in the wilderness. After this ordeal, Jesus has finally emerged and has chosen to speak not just to the disciples, not just to the Pharisees, but to a whole, giant crowd of people, as many as have ears to hear … including us. And having Jesus tell us that we are a people of weak faith makes us uncomfortable.
        • Gr. “weak faith” = “little trust” → not that we do not believe enough or pray hard enough but that we do not trust enough
          • Scholar: Letting go of our worry is not a matter of ignoring what’s wrong; it’s a confidence in what is right. It’s dropping anchor in the good news of Christ Jesus rather than waiting for the news of the world to calm us down. … Ridding your life of worry is not a matter of reducing stress but of increasing trust.[5]  → As long as I can remember, my aunt has always said, “Worry is a prayer for the negative.”
  • Passage from ps for this morning reinforces power of trusting God over worrying
    • Speaks of God’s greatness
    • Speaks of God’s glory
    • Speaks of the goodness of God’s teaching and commands → But as wonderful and true as they are, the psalmist acknowledges that those very same laws and regulation are sometimes where our trouble and our worry creep in. – text: The Lord’s regulations are right, gladdening the heart. The Lord’s commands are pure, giving light to the eyes. Honoring the Lord is correct, lasting forever. … No doubt about it: your servant is enlightened by them; there is great reward in keeping them. But can anyone know what they’ve accidentally done wrong? Clear me of any unknown sin and save your servant from willful sins. Don’t let them rule me. Then I’ll be completely blameless; I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing.[6]
      • Sounds a lot like Paul in Phil: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.[7]  → Like the psalmist – who was obviously facing some struggles of his or her own (praying “Don’t let my sins rule me”) – and like Jesus fresh out of his wilderness temptations, Paul is speaking these words from a difficult place. He’s in prison … again. He’s probably been mistreated – beaten or malnourished – again. He’s been publicly humiliated … again. All for preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. And yet he speaks of releasing worries. He speaks of peace.
  • This message – all of this talk of not worrying and giving thanks and peace – is all beautiful and comforting in theory … But in practice, we often find this so hard to do! We worry about anything and everything. We worry about our families. We worry about our friends. We worry about our jobs. We worry about our nation and our world. We worry about what we said or done. We worry about what we didn’t say or do. We worry about our church.
    • Worry comes from a place of caring – a place of being invested in something/someone
    • But worry also comes from a place of fear – fear that our strength, our intelligence, our determination, our ability isn’t strong enough. And that often paralyzes us, keeping us from making decision and stepping out in faith, even when we know it’s going to be hard … especially when we know it’s going to be hard. But that is no way to be the church. And that is no way to preach the good news of Jesus Christ – love, resurrection, grace, hope. These are the gifts from God for which we are often so grateful, but when we are mired down in worry and in fear, we are separated from our gratitude to God. We cannot feel it. We cannot express it. It is a bold message and a strong message that we carry, and in order to take that message into all the places into which God calls us, we must trust not in our own selves and abilities and strength, but in the God who calls and compels us.
      • Jesus as the end of our gospel passage this morning: Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, story worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day is trouble enough of its own.[8]
      • Corrie ten Boom: Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
    • And the best part, friends, is that like Wemberly and Jewel, we are not alone in this. We are a part of a community – here in this congregation and around the world – a community of people willing to love on us and pray for us and remind us that God is God and we are not and help us to trust when we become overwhelmed by worry and fear. And for that, we can be truly and especially grateful.
    • Final question – same question we’re ending every sermon of this series with: How can we release our worry and express our gratitude for what we are doing here and now? Amen.

 

Benediction

In his book The Light in the Heart, author Roy T. Bennett writes, “More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.” Words to live by … words to leave with.

[1] Kevin Henkes. Wemberly Worried. (New York, NY: Greenwillow Books), 2010.

[2] Mt 5:3, 5 (NRSV).

[3] Mt 6:25.

[4] Mt 6:26b, 30.

[5] Brian Erickson. “Fall Series 2: The Enemies of Gratitude – Proper 21: Nostalgia” in A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 68-69.

[6] Ps 19: 8-9a, 11-13.

[7] Phil 4:6-7 (NRSV).

[8] Mt 6:33-34.

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3 responses to “Sunday’s sermon: Second Enemy of Gratitude: Worry

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Third Enemy of Gratitude – Entitlement | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

  2. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Fourth Enemy of Gratitude: Greed | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

  3. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Fifth Enemy of Gratitude: Disappointment | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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