Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
Gospel Reading of the Day, Luke 12: 13-31
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14 But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15 And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." 16 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, "What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' 18 Then he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." 22 He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
When I read this verse in today’s Gospel lesson, my memory served up an image of MAD Magazine, with that goofy looking character on the front saying, “What? Me worry?” As I recover from this morning’s dose of CNN I wonder if there is anyone who is awake who is not worried! But this a large part of the problem, isn’t it? Fear has gripped the economic world and precipitated a steep decline. This may be an overdue “correction”, but no one seems to know what actually is correct, so our imagination goes into overdrive. Mark Twain once observed that, “I have suffered all my life from all sorts of calamities, most of which never happened.” Indeed! Or, looked at from the other side, when has our worrying actually helped our situation? The first step to solving a problem is usually clearing our mind of worry, which just distorts the situation.
So much for psychology and common sense, which is basically true. However, as Christians, we can do more. First, we can recognize our worry as a sign that somehow we are alone in the world, and that it all depends on us, or worse, depends on someone else over whom we have no control. Powerlessness is one of humanity’s most dreaded feelings, because it threatens us at a very deep level. And yet, many times we are powerless, and the sooner we face the fact and turn it over to God, the better. Does this mean just pray about it and it will all be okay? No. It means turn it over to God, then listen for direction; listen for ideas; and listen to possibilities from others without discounting them too quickly. Yes, of course we need to be concerned, but worry is a form of doubt, of mistrust. Concern focuses our efforts on solutions while worry focuses our imaginations on fearsome outcomes.
Looking back over many trials through the years, often things did not work out the way I wanted them to. Instead, in good time, something even better developed. I’m not saying that God keeps us from what we want because he has a better plan, but I am saying that regardless of the severity of our situation, God within us can direct our path to the nearest exit and the best outcome under the circumstances. Ideally, by developing a close relationship with God, and listening for and responding to the urging of the Holy Spirit, we can move fearlessly through life, confident in the path we have chosen.