November 18, 2007

"On Being A Worry Wart"
Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34
Sermon by Rev. Kathleen Groff
Dundee United Methodist Church

  Friday evening and Saturday morning I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Lake Huron Retreat Center as part of the Board of Outdoor and Retreat Ministry. I woke unusually early on Saturday due to the early morning habits of my roommates, so I was ready for the first light of day and watched what that new day would reveal that I had not see when I arrived after dark the night before. As the darkness gave way to day, I began to notice the shore line of Lake Huron. I watched as gently lapping waves washed over the beach in rhythmic pattern, then focused for awhile on the birds winging low over the water. My eyes drifted to two lone pines not more than a few feet from the water. They must have been what I would call scrub pines, but there were only two on the bare sand beach. It looked like the lake winds had taken a toll on those trees as their branches were bent, misshapen and broken. But there they stood lifting scraggly limbs heavenward, gently rocking in the slight wind of the morning. The small waves continued to bow at their feet as I pondered the existence of those two lone trees. These trees did not worry about the winter storms certain to approach. They did not worry about the waves that could in that same day become enormous enough to crash at their feet and threaten to bowl them over. They did not worry about the mounds of snow and ice that could claim more branches and cause them to bow low enough to splinter in half. They simply stood there in the quiet dawn, strong and firm and ready for the day's happenings. Perhaps their job was to simply sit and hold the sand together as the lake tried to claim new territory. Or perhaps their job was to provide a little shelter and rest for shore birds busy with their gathering of minnows and other edible sea delights. Perhaps their job was to silently stand and give one gazing at them a moment to reflect on their lone stance. But they were there, those quiet trees, not worrying about tomorrow or about the past. Like two brave soldiers those two stood facing the dawn, silently standing in the presence of their Creator, a silent testimony to endurance and a sort of unrefined beauty.

  We humans are a worrying lot. We do worry about the past and about the future. We anticipate the things that could go wrong, the storms that might come unbidden into our lives. We fuss and fret and stew about what might be. We wisely prepare for the future, to anticipating unexpected events, those just in case circumstances that could happen our way. But there is a difference between being prepared and worrying about what might happen. Worry creates tension and anxiety that could paralyze and inhibit us from simply enjoying the everyday pleasures and beauty and wonder of life.

  Jesus warns against such worrying and he is the model of such non-worrying. It is obvious from his parables and examples that he spent time watching the birds of the air and seeing how grand and glorious the flowers were. Sure he had negative emotions, but basically he lived the life he was teaching his disciples. He didn't spend time worrying about things. He spent time living in each moment, drinking in the sights and events around him. He had the skill of living totally in the present, celebrating the goodness of God's creation as he encountered it. And he wanted his disciples to learn how to do that as well. His big question to them might have been, why do you not trust God, the very one who created you. God certainly knows everything about you and knows what you need the most. God wants you to trust in his goodness, even in or maybe especially in times of distress and turmoil. And more than 2000 years later we are called to do the same.

  I don't know about you but that is especially hard for me to do. I am a worrier by nature, one who has lived with high anxiety most of my life. It's almost second nature to worry. But I have noticed that when I worry or have something fretting and stewing about inside me, I find less time to simply drink in my surroundings and certainly spend less time in appreciation of what I can see, hear, and experience. My worries actually distract me from my relationship with God. And I am coming to believe much time is spent in unnecessary worry.

  Jesus is talking about the unnecessary worry that we put ourselves through. We worry about our children, we worry about the security of our jobs, we worry about our health, we worry about our future security, we worry about our homes, we worry about what others think of us, we worry about dying. But the time and energy it takes to worry about those things keep us from having time or energy to simply enjoy life, to build our relationship with God, and to be a part of kingdom living in the present. The time and energy we spend worrying about tomorrow keeps us from being in today, even from giving Thanks to the creator for the beauty and wonder of life around us.

  Jesus even goes a step farther. He says that if we put our trust and our focus in God, building our relationship with God, aiming always to please God, then all the other stuff, our clothes, our material gains, our food, will look after themselves. It will be with greater wisdom and confidence that we face each day, that we can plan appropriately for the future. Living totally without worry seems an impossible dream, like living without breathing. But some people get really hooked on worry, so much so that when they don't have anything to worry about they worry that they have forgotten something.

  It's all about sharing the same happiness that Jesus knew as he trusted the Father with all that he was and all that he would encounter. It allowed him to face each day with boldness and confidence, even to face the worst that would happen to him. Jesus could stare death itself in the face and know that God would redeem it. I don't know about you but that is the way I would like to live, choosing to spend my time drinking in the wonder of life. I would like to be like those lone pines on that lakeshore, facing each new day undaunted by what might lie ahead. I would like to live my life doing what I do best free from unnecessary worry and anxiety. And I'm getting there. Because I am continuing to learn to trust God in all matters, I am finding the time and energy to soak in life around me.

  Isn't it time we step up to the plate and put our trust in God alone, let go of unnecessary worry and live fully in each moment? Jesus invites us into that kind of living and asks us to take kingdom living seriously and greet life fully in each moment. Now that's something worth working for.