Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34
Reflection: The late Peter Gomes, who was for a long time the minister of The Memorial Church of Harvard University, told a story about preaching on this text at a commencement ceremony. Taking Jesus’ encouragement not to worry upon his lips, he preached a sermon about trusting in God and the futility of our own anxiety. After the service, a parent came up to him and berated him for what he considered an outrageous and irresponsible message. “It was anxiety that got my daughter into the school, it was anxiety that got her into grad school, and it will be anxiety that will fuel her performance in her first job. How dare you!” Gomes, with his characteristically wry twinkle, pushed back by saying they were not his words, but Jesus’. The parent wasn’t won over.
I wonder how many of us have a similar reaction when reading Jesus’ exhortation, “Do not worry.” I, at least, read it and immediately wonder how out of touch Jesus had to be to say something like that! There is so much in our world that is worrisome. Our phones buzz all day long with concerning headlines. We worry about the health of our children, our aging parents, our planet. We worry about some of the systemic injustices in our very own city. And wouldn’t it be nice, Jesus, if we could just DECIDE to stop worrying? In my experience, anxiety works like an itch: just deciding not to think about it doesn’t make it go away. It nags. More than that, to say, “Don’t worry, be happy” to someone who is truly struggling to manage their concerns can feel like awfully cold comfort – even a cutting dismissal of a real and difficult experience.
But I’ve never known Jesus to offer cold comfort, or to shrug off the concerns of his people. Which is why I don’t think Jesus is offering unrealistic optimism or failing to show empathy when he invites us not to worry. Here, when Jesus invites us to consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and how God cares even for them, I think he’s inviting us to cultivate practices that focus our attention on what is most important about us, which is that the God who created us is watching over us, and even now dreaming of who God hopes we will become – people who know the full, abundant life to which we have been called.
So much competes for our attention these days, but here you are reading a devotion, carving out space to stop, breathe, reflect, and pray. I wonder … where might you carve out 5-10 minutes today to once again stop, take a deep breath, reflect, and say a prayer. Perhaps it is a quick walk around the block where your office building is. Perhaps it is that blessed 10 seconds after you’ve closed the car door after buckling your children in and are walking to the driver’s seat. Perhaps it is in putting whatever your preferred screen is down 10 minutes earlier than normal before bed tonight to write down three things for which you have been grateful today. Decide while you’re reading this, and commit to “consider the lilies” even for a few minutes today — your small act of defiance in a world of rushing worry.
Prayer: Dear God, you care for me in every moment. Awaken me to your presence. Fill my lungs with your praise and my heart with your peace, so that I might be grounded again in your love for me. Amen.
Author: Anna Dickson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].
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