Perhaps this makes me a bit of a hack, but every time I come to this passage (Matthew 6:24-34) I cannot help but think of the Bobby McFerrin 1980's hit, "Don't worry, be happy". I like the song: it’s simple and it is catchy, especially the whistling bits. But As I re-listened to it now some twenty five years later, something struck me. There is nothing behind the reason for people not to worry. As another song of my youth might say, "we're here for a good time not a long time, so have a good time; the sun doesn't shine every day." So long as we can have a good time, so long as we are having fun we are okay. Don’t let life get you down, don't get bummed out.
Early in ministry, I would talk to friends who were commissioned and ordained at about the same time as I was and we would essentially say the same thing… if we could only have as easy as doing beach ministry. There would be lots of fun and sun with lots of time in the water and in the sand. Then life and ministry would be good. Instead we get to worry about who we are going to get to Vestry meetings, and how we are going to fix the hot water tank at the Rectory and how are we going to stay on budget and… well let’s agree that the list is long. There are lots to take care of and lots that can be worried about without putting too much effort in the find of issues.
Even in the Church we have our concerns about how to be salt and light in the world, how we are going to fulfill the Law, how we are going to handle our anger and deal with reconciliation when we have messed up. We are going to have to consider how we deal with our adulterous hearts. We are going to have to have to hope that the strength comes to us to be able to withstand persecutions so that we can expose unjust authority. We are going to have to learn to love those who don’t love us, and that we don’t want anything to do with. We are going to have to figure out where our allegiances are and decided what paths we are going to take. There is so much to take in some times.
In this very moment Jesus calls us, his body, his Church to something more, something deeper than a life of beach ministry or a ministry through a life of worry and potential misery:
″If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. ″Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them". - Matthew 6:25-29 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Coming into the life of the kingdom is not like trying to make your way in the world. The world wants to compete with God for the desires and affections of the human heart. This is probably the single biggest challenge the Church faces. People aren’t so much looking to for something deep spiritually, something that might fill the void they feel and try to fill. Often people seem to be looking for a good time that reaffirms what goes on in the rest of life. In fact I can remember a parishioner some time back telling me, “Preach what you want, but don’t talk about cabins. I love my cabin and I need my cabin. Don’t tell me I cannot have my cabin.”So I asked, “Who has your heart then, God or your cabin?” All of us faces these battles for our affections, it is not unique to just one our two of us.
This is why are challenged to seek and search for God and make God first. When we seek God and make God our first priority, we find that what we need (not what we greed for) comes into focus and into play. When we ask according to the will of God, God has promised to provide. When we seek out God we will find him because he is right near us. And when we are ready to walking through those doors all we need to do is knock because God can open every door that is closed to us otherwise.
God calls us to trust him because he knows what our needs are – he knows that we need our daily bread and God is willing to give it that we would be nourished and sustained. And if we know that God is going to sustain us then how should we face the day ahead? We still have those things to face but at the very least we can recognize that we do not face them alone. We may never be responsibility and worry free, but we can trust God to be there with us, to guide us and protect us. God will certainly be there to empower, embolden and to bless us in the risks that we need to take so that our hope increases and our faith is encouraged and livened up. Most of all remember that we are not asked to do the impossible. We are asked to do what God has asked us to do and leave the rest to God. As the Late Mother Teresa once said, “If you cannot feed a hundred then just feed one.” So don’t just worry: take courage and be blessed!