[This message was shared with the people of Friendship Lutheran Church during worship this morning. Today was my last Sunday at Friendship. But if you live in or ever visit the Cincinnati area, this is a truly great church, filled with the love of Jesus Christ, with warm welcomes for all people, and a tremendous commitment to service in Jesus' Name!]Matthew 6:25-34
Many of you know that I love Walt Disney World. I loved it long before anybody from my family started working there.
Like others, I enjoy Disney World in part, because it’s entertaining, clean, and sometimes even educational. But the biggest reason for my love of Disney World is that, to me, it’s an inspiring place!
We may never, like Walt Disney, build amusement parks or a media empire--how many of those does the world need anyway? But Disney World inspires me to consider what all of us could do with the gift of imagination that God has granted to us.
Human beings have the awesome capacity to imagine or envision the future. It’s one of the main things distinguishing us from all the other creatures God made. That ability has not only brought us Disney World, but also little things like democracy, the space program, and every technological innovation in history. I hope that this morning, you’re envisioning a bright and faithful future for Friendship, for example.
Sadly, we human beings are likelier to use the gift of imagination in negative ways, though. Sin soils our souls and with it, our imaginings grow dark. We’re accomplished at imagining how everything that can go wrong eventually will, often creating the very bad things we dread!
A young man was deeply in love with his new wife and she with him. But the young man was insecure. Because he couldn’t believe that anyone could be so stupid as to actually love him, he worried that his wife planned to leave him or that she was seeing someone else. He checked on her all the time and was in need of constant reassurance from her. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more. Although she’d never had any intention of leaving her husband or taking up with someone else, she did those very things. Afterward, oblivious to how his worried imaginings had contributed to this trainwreck, the young man felt a perverse sense of vindication. “I knew this would happen,” he said. Worry is negative imagining and it’s a killer.
In today’s Bible lesson, Jesus talks about worry. He notes that we tend to stew over our material well being. To that, Jesus says that life is more than food, clothing, or possessions. The things of this world fade away, rust out, or die. But God lasts forever. That’s why Jesus says we’re to seek God and the ways of God first and above all else. As we do, He says, we can trust that God will take care of our material needs.
Earlier this year, Friendship was faced with some daunting financial and spiritual realities. But the leadership of this congregation refused to yield to worry. Instead, they challenged us all to pray for Friendship, seeking God’s guidance; to maintain strong participation in the life of Friendship; to maintain strong giving, even to consider tithing, giving the first 10% of our income to the life and work of the church; and to invite others to worship.
Because you let God help you dare to imagine a different outcome and because thousands of other people joined us in prayer, Friendship is stronger than it’s ever been!
(And by the way, don’t stop now. Your commitment to those four priorities is more important today than it’s ever been. The salvation and well-being of thousands of your neighbors depends on your continuing to faithfully imagine a constantly strengthening and growing Friendship Church!)
As long as God allows this sin-drenched world to continue, providing His Church with time and opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with others, bad things will happen to people, even to faithful people. But if we let Him, God will block worry from the lives of those who surrender to Jesus Christ and empower them to keep seeking His Kingdom
In today’s Bible lesson, Jesus gives us some God-ordained worryblockers. These strategies will free us to imagine, work, and pray for God’s best, rather than worrying about the worst.
First: We need to live in what’s called “day-tight compartments.”
At the end of today’s lesson, Jesus tells us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
It’s great for us to use our imaginations to dream, pray, and work toward good goals for ourselves, our church, and others. But Jesus knows that tomorrow morning, when you go to work or are hustling the kids off to school, you’ll have more than enough challenges on your plates; you don’t need to waste time stewing about everything that could
go wrong the day after tomorrow, next week, or next year. We only can really deal with one day’s challenges--or more accurately, one moment's
challenges--at a time.
Besides, when you borrow difficulties from tomorrow, which is what we do when we worry, you overlook the good things of today. Psalm 118:24 says, “This
is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it
.” We need to make a commitment to live in, savor, and enjoy this day that God has given to us!I even encourage people to laugh more each day
. It’s been shown that laughter is good for our bodies, opening up our blood vessels, making the jobs of our physical hearts easier.
Maybe that fact is behind the words from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, “A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken...”
I love what C.S, Lewis said: “It is a Christian duty...for everyone to be as happy as they can.” No people have more reason to be happy than followers of Jesus Christ
. Christ has killed off the power of sin and death over our lives and freed us to live boldly and happily with Him by our sides. We can live in day-tight compartments with assurance and confidence.
Second worry blocker: Seek out God’s will for your life! And for the lives of others
. Jesus says that worrying about tomorrow won’t add a second to this life. (Nor, I would add, will it add any life to our living!) But when we seek God’s will, we gain access to what’s best in life. I believe that God strews markers along our ways through life in order to show us the way we should go.
Often, God does that through other people who, without our even knowing it, are acting as God’s cheerleaders for us. Years ago, for example, I read about a man who, as a boy, lived in poverty in a rough neighborhood. He was befriended by an elderly man who ran a drycleaning business. He often told this boy, whose life seemed to hold little promise, that he was a smart boy who would grow up to run a business of his own some day. In spite of his poverty and the fact that he came from a family of abusive alcoholics, that boy went to college and later became the chief financial officer of a multi-million-dollar organization.
You have the opportunity to be a part of such stories when you give to and volunteer for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Clermont County. Through Friendship's involvement in this organization, you have already given young people right here in our community the hope for a better future. I hope that you'll continue to work and pray for this important and worthy organization!
God envisions better lives for us than even we do. (That’s why I called my column here and named my blog site, Better Living
.) So, we need to go to God for help in our daily living and decision making.
Third: We need to keep seeking God!
Jesus says, “Strive [or, as we’ve traditionally heard it, Seek ye
] first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
You’ve heard of heat-seeking missiles. Simply put, the guidance systems of these missiles seek out targets that emit infrared radiation. Focused on a specific target, thesy hit what they seek.
The God we meet in Jesus Christ knows the design of the human being better than anybody. He knows that you and I are desire-seeking missiles. We aim our souls at our obsessions. When, as Jesus speaks about in our lesson, we worry about things like money, food, and clothing, we may get them in overabundance. But in seeking out those targets, we crowd God from our lives. Seek to follow Christ and to live in His Kingdom above all else. God will take care our daily needs and empower us to help the poor and the hungry denied access to God's provision for them by the selfishness of the human race. But more than providing us with our daily bread, when we seek God, we’ll remain connected to God!
Seeking God first means not just regular prayer, Bible reading, weekly worship, and participation in service in Jesus’ Name, all of which are essential elements to being a Christian. I want to tell you today that it also means receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion every time it’s offered
The word Sacrament
. In, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion, Jesus’ body and blood mysteriosuly come to us. In ways none of us fully understand, Jesus Himself enters us. We gain a physical connection with God
In Communion, we also enjoy a connection with every believer of every time and every place, including those already in eternity. When Jesus said that we’re to take the bread and the win in remembrance
of Him, He didn’t mean that we’re to look back nostalgically to when He walked on the earth.
Anyone with even the faintest knowledge of Christian faith knows that following the God we know in Jesus Christ isn’t about looking backward
. Religion looks backward, Biblical faith looks forward!
- The people of Israel got themselves in trouble and forgot God when, in the wilderness, they looked back nostalgically to their enslavement in Egypt.
- The wife of Abraham’s nephew Lot was turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back to the city from which God was leading her.
- And when the angels appeared to the women at the empty tomb on the first Easter to announce that Jesus had risen from the dead, they said, “Tell Peter and the others to meet Jesus in Galilee, where He’s already gone ahead of them!”
No, that word remembrance that Jesus used at the first sharing of the Lord’s Supper was, in the original Greek, anamnesis
, in my Caveman Greek, unamnesia
, if you will. In Holy Communion, the walls between us and eternal timelessness with God and other believers are torn down. We are membered again, re-membered, re-connected to God and to all who have ever believed in the God we know in Jesus Christ
.In the fellowship of Holy Communion, we’re enfolded once again into the family of which we become a part when we believe and are baptized. Sins are forgiven. God’s love is seen and touched and tasted
And something else happens. I once visited a shut-in who was dying. I gave Holy Communion to her. When we finished, I saw this woman beaming. She knew she would die soon. But in Holy Communion, God had given her a foretaste of the new and everlasting future that awaited her. God had given her a new vision. She could live or die today knowing that she was in God’s hands. She knew, as Jesus reminds us in today’s lesson, that she was of more value than all the birds and flowers of the fields. Christ had died and risen for her. (And for you!) By seeking God, worry was banished from her life.
God wants to block worry from our lives. Let that happen...
- by asking God to help you live in daytight compartments;
- by seeking God’s will for your life, including how you can help others overcome worry and see the possibilities in their own lives; and
- by continuing to seek God through prayer, Bible study, service in Jesus’ Name, weekly worship, and by receiving the body and blood of Jesus every time Holy Communion is offered.
Don’t worry about your life; let God give you his peace...always.