Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Second Sunday in Easter, Year A May 1, 2011 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A Acts 2:14a, 22-32, I Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday April 24, 2011 Easter Day, 2011 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-18
Good Friday April 22, 2011 Good Friday John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011 April 21, 2011 Maundy Thursday 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 April 17, 2011 Palm Sunday Mathew 27
Fifth Sunday in Lent – Raising of Lazarus April 10, 2011 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-45
Fourth Sunday in Lent April 3, 2011 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A John 9:1-41; Psalm 23
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A March 20, 2011 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12: 1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17, Psalm 121
First Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2011 March 13, 2011 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19, Romans 8:18-25
Ash Wednesday Sermon March 9, 2011 Ash Wednesday Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday After Epiphany March 6, 2011 Last Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 17:1-9
Don’t Worry About Tomorrow February 27, 2011 Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 49:8-16a; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
Choose Life February 13, 2011 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
We are the Salt of the Earth February 6, 2011 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:13-20, Isaiah 58:1-12
Shalom January 30, 2011 Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:1-12

 

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

Sermon Date:February 27, 2011

Scripture: Isaiah 49:8-16a; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

Liturgy Calendar: Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A


“Why worry?” ask the Irish.

According to Irish wisdom,

“There are only two things to worry about:

Either you are well, or you are sick.

If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about: 

But if you are sick; there are two things for you to worry about:

Either you will get well, or you will die.

If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about.

If you die, then there are two things to worry about:

Either you go up or you go down.

If you go up, then there is nothing to worry about.

But if you go down,

You will be so busy shaking hands with old friends,

You won’t have time to worry!”

Jesus must have been Irish, because he too tells us not to worry.

But we are full of worry, all the time, about two things.

First, can we amass enough material possessions to take care of ourselves?

And how are we being judged?  What do others think of us?

Because deep down inside, no matter what perfect front we manage to present to the world, we know we can never be perfect or measure up to what others expect of us

And we certainly cannot measure up to a God who expects perfection. 

After all, just a little earlier in the sermon on the mount Jesus says to us, 

Be ye, therefore, perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.”

Impossible. 

No wonder we go around feeling anxious.

Our first judges are our parents.

Maybe you had a demanding father.  You could never live up to his standards.  You were constantly judged, and constantly came up lacking.

Or maybe you had an abusive mother.

Or maybe you had parents who you felt judged you more harshly than your siblings. 

Or parents who abdicated when it came to judgment and left you to your own devices, floundering as you tried to figure out right from wrong.

And then some of us got to be parents, and our worries increased—because not only are we still being judged by our parents, but now we are in the role of judging and guiding our own children. 

And then there’s work.

Will I be perfect enough, good enough at work, will I measure up with the boss’s expectations?

Maybe, because I’m anxious about pleasing a demanding boss, I’ll work harder and harder, but I can never work enough to lose that anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

These feelings of never being able to measure up lead some to decide that what they have is the measure of who they are, and their philosophy of life gets summed up in that bumper sticker we sometimes see—He who dies with the most toys, wins.

The ways in which we have come to know God can also  lead to deep inner anxiety.  

After all, God is our ultimate judge.

Paul tells the Corinthians that they must not judge one another, because judgment belongs to God.

“It is the Lord who judges me,” says Paul.

“Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”

We cannot hide from God. 

And remember what the Irish say–

If you die, there are two things to worry about.

Either you go up or down. 

And deep down in our heart of hearts, we know that if God judges us fairly, we will all go down because not a one of us has been able to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.

For many of us, God is that demanding parent , that boss that we cannot please, no matter how hard we try. 

But our lectionary passages today have something more to tell us about the mysteries of God—the mysteries of God, the secret knowledge of God’s purpose, disclosed in the gospel.

God’s purpose, disclosed in the gospel, is good news—

The good news of our salvation. 

And God, our ultimate judge, is also a God of mercy and compassion, the God of our salvation. 

The fact that Jesus lived and died as one of us and is the author of our salvation is the ultimate proof of God’s mercy and compassion.

And Jesus told us over and over about his heavenly father, merciful and compassionate. 

Jesus was a Jew, and he knew, intimately, the God  that we sometimes refer to as the God of the Old Testament—a God we tend to think of as a God of wrath, a God who opens up the earth and swallows those who would dare to disobey him.

But the God that Jesus knew, and told us about, is also, if we read the Old Testament, clearly a God of infinite mercy and compassion.

Today’s lectionary provides us with several different descriptions of God and God’s providential care for us. 

In the book of Isaiah, the people cry out–

“The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”

They are troubled, full of anxiety. 

And Isaiah provides them and us, these thousands of years later,  when we feel forgotten, with this comforting  maternal description of God.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,

Or show no compassion for the child of her womb?” 

But human mothers may forget their children after all,

God, however, will never  forget us, but holds us forever. 

“See,” God says, “I have inscribed you in the palms of my hands.”

In Psalm 131, the psalmist finds comfort and peace as he rests in prayer and experiences the presence of God as the presence of a mother, holding her baby in the warmth of her arms. 

“But I still my soul and make it quiet” the psalmist sings. 

Like a child upon a mother’s breast

My soul is quieted within me.” 

Barbara Bowe points out in her book, Biblical Foundations of Spirituality, that 

“The God who is revealed to Moses is merciful and gracious.  Exodus 34:6. 

Bowe goes on to say that the English word merciful translates the Hebrew term related to rehem

Meaning “womb.”

This fundamental affirmation about the character of God highlights God’s motherly compassion, God’s womb love. 

Over one hundred times, the biblical writers reiterate this feminine image of God through the use of the gender specific term, womb, to describe God’s compassion, mercy, and tenderness.

So Moses reminds the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:31 that “because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them” 

The same merciful God that Isaiah describes in our reading today.

The same heavenly father  that Jesus talks about in our gospel today, the heavenly father than loves his creation so much that he cares for every intricate part of his creation, for the birds of the air, and the grass of the field, and especially for us, his beloved children.

We know that God cannot ever adequately described in any language with any words.  Like Isaiah and the psalmist we  servants seek the mystery of God by describing God in terms of the intimate relationships we share with those who love us here and now. 

But at the same time we must remember the cautionary words of St Augustine, one of the church’s greatest theologians, who said that

if we think we have understood God, then what we have understood is, by definition, not God.”

And St John Chrysostom says that God surpasses all power of human speech; that God eludes the grasp of every mortal intelligence; only the Son and the Holy Spirit know God.”  (Barbara Bowe, Biblical Foundations of Spirituality, pg 24).

Bowe points out that throughout the Bible, God is described in a variety of ways—and these ways give us only a glimpse of “some aspect or nature of character of God, but do not limit or define God.” 

In fact, when we “claim that our words or our images are expressions of the full identity of God, we fall into idolatry” (26).

Soon the season of Lent will be upon us.

We will return to Rite I for our worship.  Rite I, as you know, has a more penitential flavor and is made up of the more formal and lovely English words that link us to our Anglican beginnings. 

Rite I reminds us that God is our judge, and that we are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under his table.

But Rite I also reminds us that this God before whom we stand in our unworthiness is the God who feeds us in his holy mysteries with the most precious Body  and Blood of his Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

“And dost assure us thereby of God’s  favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of God’s  Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of God’s everlasting kingdom.”

During Lent, I have the following challenge for you, the challenge that Jesus leaves us with at the end of today’s reading.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

When you find yourself worrying, go spend some time with scripture. Look for images of God that will broaden your understanding of who God is.

If you experience God as one who constantly judges you and you constantly come up lacking, then spend some intentional time with those passages that describe God as a God of mercy and compassion.

If you avoid thinking of God as a judge, use the time of Lent to go into God’s presence, the God who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and who will disclose the purposes of your heart.

As Paul says, “It is the Lord who judges me.”

Open yourself to that judgment.

But above all,

“Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things, everything you need, will be given to you as well,”

Both now, and in the age to come, when we will meet the God face to face.

Amen. 

 

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