Homily: Picture This

  Lately, when I approach the Sunday scriptures, I’ve been trying to pay attention to what I spontaneously feel when I read the text. That is, I try to notice what feelings, reactions, and emotions the passage stirs in me in addition to what thoughts it sparks. This week, what struck me — like a 2×4, frankly – was just how hard it is to hear Jesus say, “Do not worry about your life.”

   Do not worry?? You’ve got to be kidding. Most days, life feels like one worry strung after another like lights on a morbid Christmas tree. Worries at in my work (a parishioner who’s mad at me). Worries in my family, worries about…well, you name it (the economy, the neighbor-hood, the friend whose grandson was just diagnosed with cancer…). Do you see what I mean?  Worries swarm around us like bees to honey.

   And I don’t think it’s just me. I think we live in an incredibly anxious culture. The evening news certainly depends upon worries at home and abroad to attract viewers. Commercials are constantly inviting us to worry about one more thing — usually about ourselves! –that the sponsored product should supposedly solve. More and more houses seem to sport home security signs in their front lawns. And whenever I go to the airport I’m greeted outside by an electronic sign that reads, “See Suspicious Activity — Call 1-800…)  and inside by an ominous voice informing me that, “The threat level, as determined by the Office for Homeland

Security, is Orange.” (I don’t even know what “orange” is, but I’m betting it’s not good.) And there it is: everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, there are visible reminders of just how much there is to worry about.

   So how in the world, then, can Jesus possibly ask us — really, command us! — not to worry?

   Wait a second, though. Did you notice that today’s passage doesn’t start with the injunction about worry? No, it’s starts with an assertion that we cannot serve two masters, both God and money. If we try, Jesus says, we’ll end up loving one and hating the other. So what’s the connection? Well, notice that Jesus doesn’t say money is evil, or even bad, just that it makes a poor master.

   So why can’t we give our allegiance and worship to money? Because to do so is to fall prey to the larger worldview that crowns money ‘Lord’ in the first place. Actually, the issue isn’t money per se. Any pastor will confirm that for you. The problem comes when we make money our god — that thing, as Luther once observed, that we trust for our every good. Once we believe that money can solve all our problems and satisfy our deepest needs, then we suddenly discover that we never have enough. Money, after all, is finite. And so once we decide money gives us security, then we are ushered immediately into a world of counting, tracking, and stock piling. No wonder we worry – in a world of scarcity, there is simply never enough.

   The alternative Jesus invites us to consider is entering into relationship with God, the God who is infinite and whose love for us and all creation is infinite as well. Love operates from a different “economy” than money. Any parent will tell you, when their second child came along, they didn’t divide their love for their first child between the two, they just suddenly had more love, more than they could possibly have imagined before. No doubt you’ve noticed the same thing: how the more love you give away, the more you have. Love — and especially God’s love — cannot be counted, tracked or stockpiled. And when you live in this kind of relationship of love and trust, you’ve entered into the realm of ‘abundance’, the world of possibility, the world of contentment. Suddenly, in this world – Jesus calls it the “kingdom of God” – ‘not worrying’ actually becomes an option.

   I know; it’s hard to believe in this world of abundance that Jesus proclaims, this world that invites us to trust God’s faithfulness like a flower does spring or sail upon the currents of God’s love like a bird does the air. This is why, in the end, they put him to death. Jesus dies because the abundance of love he preached was downright frightening, even threatening. So, committed to keeping their power born of fear, the rulers of Jesus’ day put him to death.

   But God operates out of abundance. So God ‘resurrects’ Jesus, creating something, once again, out of nothing, drawing light from darkness, giving life to the dead.

   This is the world Jesus invites us into as we begin our Lenten reflections once again: a world of abundance, of generosity and new life. But it is also a world of fragility, trust, and vulnerability. Lilies and birds, after all, can’t defend themselves; they have to trust God’s providence and love.

    I know this is hard. We are, after all, surrounded by countless images of scarcity and fear that seek to cause us to worry. Our theme this Lent is ‘Thresholds of Life’. It speaks of all those doorways where we step beyond our fears and worries and sinfulness into the very Life of God. But maybe this is exactly where this Lent we start. Our task this week and in the weeks of Lent to come is to capture thousands images and reminders of abundance, and courage, and trust. Rediscover those places where you have seen God at work caring for the world in a way that helps you to relax, to breathe, to count your blessings, and trust in God’s providence. Faith is that wonderful gift which enables us to discover goodness in the most unexpected places.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”    (David Lose)

1 Comment

  1. David

    Tue 04th Mar 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Very inspiring!

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