On a 1-10 scale, how much of a worrier are you?
I wish I had counted the first half of the week the number of conversations I had that started with how absolutely LOVELY the weather has been this week. And how many of those same conversations ended by people expressing their worry about the summer and how horribly hot it might be because of how nice it is this February. There were enough that it caught my attention. A quick show of hands – how many of you were guilty of that this week? Though unimportant in the grand scheme of things – I wonder if that little conversation might be revelatory about how much you worry?
How easy it is for us to slip into that thing called worry. Especially about things that we can do absolutely nothing about – like this coming summer’s weather. (Maybe that is an easy one for me not to worry about, because I KNOW that I can do absolutely nothing about it…) And, how easy it is to worry, to be preoccupied about things that don’t really matter in the long run. I pretty much stopped watching football forever during the Gulf War, because I realized I was more bent out of shape by whether the Rams had won or lost, than the number of soldiers who died during the war that weekend. And I knew that was wrong set of priorities.
How easy it is to worry. To let all kinds of possible futures deprive me of a sense of well being today. The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, put it this way. He said: “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials –it simply empties today of its joy.” Let me repeat that “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials – it simply empties today of its joy.” Worry has a corrosive power that eats away at our bodies, our relationships, our peace of heart and mind.
Into our human experience of worry, Jesus tells us: “Do not worry.” Four times he tells us that. “It is easy for you to say. You don’t have three college tuitions facing you. Or medical problems. Or an aging parent.” Yet, there it is. Do not worry. Do not get so bent out of shape about things that DON’T matter in the long run. Clothing, possessions, what to eat or drink, sports teams – we can end up serving them, to the exclusion of what is of ultimate importance. Instead, he tells us, there is only one thing to worry about, one thing to wrap our energy and thoughts around: Seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness – and then everything else will flow.
And how do we seek the kingdom, how do we serve God and not mammon? “Just love.” Just enter the present moment. Sufficient for today is what you have to deal with. All we have to do is LOVE NOW. If there is a gift from the people in recovery programs like AA, isn’t it this – you don’t have to live your sobriety 5 years from now, nor 5 hours from now. You only have to live it this moment. “Look at the lilies, the wildflowers” Jesus tells us. They exult in the moment. It is all they have to do….
That is all we need to do. It is the one thing that will yield a holy happy, joy-filled life.
• Jesus is not saying don’t plan for the future… He knows we have to think ahead and use our brains.
• Jesus is not saying, don’t learn from the past or act like it didn’t happen…
• He is just saying don’t live in either the past or the future. Live
THIS moment. Don’t be caught up in whatever failure or mistake or preoccupation that weighs you down. Live now. Love now. Don’t get caught up in predictions of a dire future that you cannot change or influence – live in the here and now and TRUST that God will be there in that moment as well. When the anxiety comes, acknowledge it. But don’t stay there! Remember, all you have to do is love now. That is enough. That is ALL we need.
And if there is a grace, a gift to the timing of this reading, is that it appears on the porch steps of Lent. Wednesday begins that great penitential season. That great time of shedding all within us that is not of God, all within us that gets caught up in serving anything less than the Kingdom. So, as a way to prepare for this season, what would it be to look at the things that you find yourself worried about, the places and people and decisions that rob you of freedom, that empty your soul of joy? And then, make a plan for this Lent – to do, to let go of, to train the heart – so that you might respond to Jesus’ invitation in the Gospel – and seek first, and always and only, the Kingdom of God in this moment, this choice, this time. And then trust that the rest will be given us as well…