8th Sunday Ordinary Time … Cycle A Deacon Tom Ryan
There is a song written by Paul Simon (“The 59th Street Bridge Song”), the first verse goes like this:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
… OK, This is from the 60’s and I’m sure of few of you are trying to complete the song in your head while your feet are tapping.
The Gospel today starts & ends with the same statement: do not worry. Now we know that generally Jesus’s teaching style, really isn’t that of do’s & don’ts. He doesn’t hand these things out lightly. So when he does, you know it’s probably pretty important. And “do not worry” is certainly an important command. Because we all worry about something, don’t we? I mean, everybody here worries about something. Some of you probably only worry every now and then. Some of you are experienced worriers. Some of you are thinking of going pro. If you find yourself not worried about something you get worried there’s something you should be worried about… so you worry until you figure out what it is, right?
It has been estimated that 40% of things we worry about never happen, another 30% have to do with things we cannot change, and 12% of our worry has to do with needless health fears. The remaining 18% can’t figure out what they are worried about. Most of the time, the troubles of tomorrow are unexpected, rather than things we have already worried about. Many people worry because they have no visible means of support. The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are some of the most liberating words ever spoken. The freedom from anxiety our Lord speaks of comes like a welcome song from a lost paradise. To help us get our cares and concerns into perspective, Jesus adds a note of humor to his message.
Have you ever seen a bird drive a tractor? Or drive a harvester and then carry bags of wheat into a barn? Of course not. But it give us a humorous picture, doesn’t it? Then Jesus adds the picture of flowers spinning cloth to make garments. Jesus isn’t against planning for the future. Rather, he wants to liberate us from worries that so consume us that there’s no room left for joy and thanksgiving. Worry is due to an over-focusing on negative factors, and failing to factor God and his goodness into our thinking. We are so easily tempted to want more than we have. When we’ve get what we longed for, there are still more things we feel we’ve just got to have. Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of what we possess.
Our gracious God is also at work in the regular and normal activities of daily life, in the rising of the sun, the falling of the rain, and the growth of flowers, plants and trees. Everything speaks to Jesus of the activity of his heavenly Father, from the tiny mustard seed to the blowing of the wind. We can view a sparrow’s death without questioning the goodness of God’s creation, because even such an insignificant creature doesn’t die unnoticed by God. The things that happen in nature have a spiritual meaning as well as a natural one.
Rain and sunshine speak to us of God’s kindness to his enemies. Every bird we see and every flower growing on its own, uncultivated by human hands, is a sign from God telling us of his care for us and His provision for our needs. In today’s Gospel, our Lord displays an appreciation of the beauty of nature unparalleled elsewhere in the Bible. No one led a fuller life than Jesus. Yet he took time to delight in and enjoy the beauty of “the flowers in the field.”
Those things we consider of insignificant value, like wildflowers, are valued so highly by God that he adorns them with an excessive abundance of color and mixed shapes and styles. God doesn’t resent the space they occupy. Flowers tell us how much God treasures us. Their beauty is of no less value because of their temporary nature. Instead they tell us a powerful message about God’s Word, In Isaiah 40:8 it says “The grass withers, the flowers fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” Jesus speaks of native flowers as someone who is very fond of them, as our God is fond of us. They remind us not to fuss and fret over what we should wear. The famous inventor Thomas Edison avoided this hassle by wearing the same kinds of clothes every day! Well, there’s a plug for School uniforms…
Jesus tells us that we are much more than a body to be fed and clothed. He treasures us so much he did all he could so that we might live forever. Jesus says to each one of you, you’re blessed because you’re already in His care. To cure you of endless worry about yourself and your future, in 1 Perter 5:7 it says “cast all your anxieties on him, for He cares about you.” Come to Jesus Christ when you’re weary and can’t sleep because of worry. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Bring your “trials” and “tribulations” to Jesus. Turn your cares into prayers then everything will look different, delightfully different.
As you go through life, sometimes things seem to go all wrong. Your pantry might be low on food. There are bills to pay. There are things broken down like your car. A few other disasters happened as well. You go to bed miserable and woke up miserable and you say to yourself in the morning … “I wonder what will go wrong today.” One night, and this might take a few nights, try to turn the whole situation over to God in prayer and leave it in God’s hands. You might find for the first time in weeks, you will go to sleep peacefully and easily. Next day, you will wake up happy and confident. But nothing had changed externally. Things are still broken. The pantry is still low. But you are changed. You might go about your day singing. Really place your trust in God in a time of stress, and it does make a difference!
Today’s text is full of encouragement to those whose faith is fragile and needs to grow. A fragile faith, a little faith that’s can grow, can do great things. Even Christians with a small amount of faith need not fear the future. Never underestimate what Jesus can do for you. Prayer and the study of the Scriptures are more than spiritual resources. They influence how we feel and shape our values and our priorities. The more important Jesus Christ is to you, the more blessings you will receive from him. Jesus invites you to do what needs to be done each day and leave the results in God’s hands. Accept each new day as fresh from God’s hands and let him worry about tomorrow. Trust his promises to you. Your prospects are as bright as the promises of God. Each breath, each heartbeat, each beautiful sight or sound is his gift to you. There’s no quicker slayer of worry than gratitude. Thank God for all the people who have enriched your life. It’s gratitude that makes life rich. The larger place gratitude has in your life, the less room there is for worry. In Philippians 4:6 it says, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God.” AMEN