Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, March 19, 2017
Scripture Reference: Luke 13:31-35
Sermon: Give Up Something Bad for Lent – Worrying
All week I have been hearing comments from people about last week’s sermon on the bad habit of being judgmental. Over and over again people have said they felt like I was talking directly to them, and how it was a reminder to watch what we say and think about people. It truly is a struggle for each one of us, but so is today’s bad habit – worry.
We all worry, even though we know we are to trust God. One of the scriptures that always comes to mind for us, reminding us not to worry about even the basic things is Matthew 6:24-35. Let us read it together.
We know this scripture well, and yet, we still worry. We worry about our children as they travel to France and Spain. We worry about paying our bills. We worry about our parents as they age and need more assistance. We worry about the transition from high school to college, or about how life will be with a child moving out. We worry about the environment, about who will be your next pastor. This week I found myself worrying about walking into a capital campaign, about finishing work up here, about finding a house. We all worry!
And in the midst of all my worries this week I read this devotional by Sarah Young in her devotional book, Jesus Today:
“When you trust in Me, you take refuge in Me. So trusting Me is much more than a matter of your words; it is mainly a matter of your will. As you go through this day, you will encounter many things that can make you anxious, including some of your thoughts. If you don’t stay alert, anxious feelings can slip into your day without your noticing them. When this happens, you may wonder why you suddenly start to feel bad. Usually, you just ignore those feelings. Or you may try to numb them with food, drink, television, gossip, or other distractions. How much better it is to “catch” the worry-thoughts before they take hold of you. That is why I say, “Be on the alert!”
If you are watchful and alert, you can choose to take refuge in Me whenever anxiety comes at you. A refuge is a place that provides protection or shelter: a safe haven. It is something to turn to for help, relief, or escape. I am eager to be your Refuge, and I am with you at all times. Nonetheless, you must exert your will by turning to Me for help. Thus, you make Me your refuge, demonstrating your trust in Me. Blessed – happy, to be envied – is the one who takes refuge in Me.
It is a reading that echoes the words of our scripture today. We hear Jesus say, “How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me.” (Luke 13:34).
This is a powerful image Jesus is offering us when we know a little bit about chickens. Chickens are fairly smart birds. They can anticipate and plan, which means they are also capable of worry. And if you have ever been around chickens then you have seen for yourself what happens when they start to worry and panic. When something new enters into their coop or space they become really loud and nervous. They start running around in a panic.
Sound a bit familiar? No wonder Jesus is comparing us to chickens. When we start to worry about something we become nervous, and our minds start racing around. Sometimes we become loud, talking nonstop to people. Sometimes our minds are scattered and we struggle to stay focused, jumping from one thing to another. We can’t hear or see anything but the source of our worry.
Jesus sees it all, sees what is happening to us, and wants to help, wants to shelter us and protect. Jesus wants to do this for us, wants to take us under his arms, like a hen with her chicks, but we won’t let him. Instead we carry is all ourselves, continuing to worry about everything.
So how do we stop worrying? How do we accept this gift Jesus is offering? First, we quiet ourselves and we listen. We listen for God speaking to us and guiding us. Just this week in my reading about clergy transitions there was a chapter reminding us to take time for meditation, for reading scripture, so we can hear God speaking to us, so we can receive that gift of peace. We see Jesus modeling that in today’s scripture. Everyone else is in a panic, is worried about what Herod will do. Only Jesus, who we know finds time to pray, is able to speak with calm and certainty about what he needs to do. So when we feel worry starting to creep in, it is important to remember to take some time with God. We need that time to pray, and to let it all go, as well as to hear God’s words of assurance and guidance, to hear that invitation to come under the protection of his wings.
We don’t have to face whatever has us worried and scared all alone. Not only do we have Jesus, but we also have a community that cares for us. When we worry we tend to take things on alone, isolating ourselves to deal with whatever is before us. Only our scripture today reminds us Christ wants us in a gathered community, just as a hen gathers her brood of chicks. We aren’t meant to be lone chicks scattered about, but finding comfort and shelter with others.
That is the gift that as a community we offer one another. I have seen you do it well. At one time when a family was in crisis and grieving members of a Bible study took the person to get gas in the car, and took turns dropping off meals. At other times when persons have been in rehab I have heard of church members stopping in to visit after work, bringing meals for the other family members, or gas gift cards to help the family visit their loved one. I myself have experiences such care in stressful times with snacks left on car seats, smiley face balloons in my office, or emails with words of support and encouragement.
Indeed when worry starts to creep in we don’t have to do everything on our own. We can lean on our community. We can turn to others to share our worries, and even ask for help. Christ wants us in community, to experience that love and support from one another so we aren’t carrying the burden alone.
When we worry obsessively, not only do we get all twisted up in knots, but we refuse the very gifts Jesus wants to give us. So when you start to feel worry overwhelming you – give it up! Find some quiet, take some deep breaths and pray, “Let go and let God.” Find the quiet to breathe and pray, “Be still and know that I am God.” And then turn to your friends and family, to the church. Don’t think you have to face it alone. Lean on Jesus and the people in your life that he gave you.
As we close I invite you to watch this video as a reminder and invitation of the safety and protection Christ wants to offer you in the midst of your worry. May you see yourself as one of those chicks, willing to accept Christ’s gift. Then I would invite you into a time of silent prayer in which you name those things that have you worried as you tie your string in knots. Only don’t leave the rope or yourself like that, “Let it go and let God” help you as you untie your knots, recognizing how rope can also connect us with others, how we can hold onto one another. Let us enter into a time of prayer.