Of faithless fears and worldly anxieties and God's immortal love

Epiphany 8 February 27 2011 St. Paul’s Bellingham

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34.

I’m standing at the gas pump once again, and the little numbers indicating money spent are going faster than ever. That day I hear Donald Trump interviewed on TV, and he’s saying “you just wait; the gas is going to reach 5 dollars or more.”

I stand there filling my tank, and it’s going over the $50 mark again on my modest Toyota, and I’m thinking of the affect on all prices this rise in energy prices will mean for us.

Frankly, I don’t personally worry so much for myself. It’s going to take more than has happened to make me really worry, because I’m blessed with a decent income. I can make some adjustments, and I can make it work. At least, that’s how it is today.

But I am aware of worry and concern all around, and the potential for worry to be amplified, and for unrest to grow around me. The more that happens, the more I’m tempted to worry. It’s already pretty tense in the country. Massive greed has caused massive economic disaster, and we’re still stumbling around after this blow. The lines are drawn, the political rhetoric incendiary, and various methods are employed by various and sundry people and institutions with various and sundry agendas to turn our attention away from root causes of our sorrows, which are linked to our greed and our fearfulness and worry and lack of trust in God’s bounty.

And as I’m at the gas pump I think about the whole efficient system of distribution that links that nozzle in my car to the Middle East, where all of a sudden amazing and tumultuous events are rocking the whole world. The Middle East, where 60% of the population is under 30 years of age, is experiencing the power of young and not-so-young rising up to seize their vision of tomorrow, a vision without autocratic and oppressive dictators who ruled by fear with their secret police and their detention cells and their intimidation.

What astonishing days these are in which we live!

While those gas prices stayed relatively low I had less reason to worry, perhaps. The gasoline distribution system is amazingly efficient, and – one might argue - for most of us in this room, it’s been amazingly affordable.

But now that the prices are rising, I have to think of some of the cost of that efficiency. Part of the cost was paid by those young in the Middle East; smart, under-employed, yearning for the freedoms they see lived out in America and elsewhere. Those young people lived with governments that our government worked out arrangements with so that we could have our energy. We helped prop up those governments for our purposes. Those governments ruled with an iron fist, with rampant injustice. We all know that; it’s been a reality no matter what political party is ruling here at home.

And now the game is changing. And I know it. And I can join the worriers, if I let myself, because all of this is unpredictable, and there is some danger in that. But I’m not going to join the worriers. I’ll be concerned, but not worry.

Our Lord Jesus teaches us what we are to be doing. We are not to worry, for worriers cannot receive the kingdom of God. Worrying is vain and faithless, for it does not trust that God is among us and working for us. Worrying is vain and faithless, because it tends to be self-centered, and not think of others. Worrying cannot accomplish one thing. Worrying detracts from kingdom activity; from our being and acting in such ways that we are catalysts for kingdom activity.

Here’s what we’re to do instead of worrying:

“Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus, who tells us this, is the one who is the perfect image of the Holy One. And the Holy One carries the worries and concerns of all of us.

Jesus is the face of this Holy One, who a long time ago took notice of people in the Middle East who were suffering under oppression, and needed leadership to help them to throw off chains of bondage to find freedom.

The Holy One spoke to a man named Moses, saying “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them….”

Now, in our day, can we imagine the Holy One involved in this somehow? Can we imagine these hosts of our fellow human beings in Egypt responding to a desire and longing placed deep within them to arise to the dignity of their human nature? Can we imagine the Holy Spirit of God at work in this situation, full of peril but also of promise? Can we imagine the Holy One once again hearing a cry from Egypt and Yemen and Bahrain and Libya? Can we imagine that that same God who called Israel out of Egypt and set apart a people for God’s name now listens to the cry of the descendants of Ishmael, that other branch of the family that names One God, as well as the cries of Christians, and Jews?

If stable gas prices and diminished worry come at the cost of oppression and subjugation of so many of these fellow human beings, perhaps we are overdue some rise in prices and the chance to at the same time resist the temptation to worry. The present moment affords us the chance to give thanks for the many blessings of freedom and abundance that you and I in this room – for the most part – enjoy, and to lend a helping hand to those near and far who are in need of a share of the bounty we enjoy.

With our Lord’s words to us ringing in our ears, we’re challenged once again. Do we believe that God is at work in the world for good? Can we trust that God’s care extends over the whole earth, and is responsive to all creatures? Can we trust that in seeking the kingdom of God – rather than expending energy in worry - we are entrusting ourselves to God, who holds for us the Kingdom of God, the Common Good that in the end benefits us all?

Let us pray:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.