Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Whatever happened to Bobby McFarrin? or Don't Worry . . .

Below is the message I shared at our inaugural 'Shepherd 701' service on Sunday night.  It deals with, what I think is a foundational issue for our day to day walk with God: Trust.  I don't think we can begin to let go of the worry in our lives until we start to trust God with all of our lives.  Thanks for reading!

 Matthew 6:24-34 (The Message)
 24"You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.
 25-26"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
 27-29"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
 30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
 34"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
When we look at this passage it is easy to focus on what seems to be the primary message – Don’t Worry
I say that it is easy to focus on that message, but that in no way means that it is an easy message to live up to or put into practice in our lives.
For most of us, worry is a fairly constant companion in our daily lives.  We are surrounded by things to worry about:
At work or school – the big assignment that is proving difficult or the colleague or class mate that is mad at you
At home – any member of the family that might be struggling at school or work
Worries about the economy, about terrorism (where having specific threat levels seems designed to encourage worry), about any number of things
And I could go on and on, from situation to situation in our lives and give examples of legitimate reasons to worry, but I don’t need to – because all of us can easily think of them on our own. 
We are surrounded by worry and things to worry about
Our culture perpetuates and encourages this worry:
The local and national newscasts, not to mention cable news networks, seem to draw almost exclusively on our anxiousness and worry to bring viewers in – ‘what you are drinking that is probably killing you  . . . .news at 11’
So much of the advertizing that we see is simply an attempt to create a fear or worry so that we will be prompted to buy the ‘solution’
I’ve already mentioned our response to real threats in our world, like terrorism with ‘threat levels’ and the like.
Into this situation Jesus comes with a plea – a command, actually – ‘Do not worry’
To understand how that is even possible, it is important to look at the beginning of this passage:
Our passage starts, not with the call not to worry, but with the assertion that no one – none of us – can serve too masters.
I don’t want to get too caught up in a discussion of money, which these verses often lead too.
But I want to point out that Jesus is not saying money is bad.  Instead, Jesus is simply highlighting money as a bad boss – or Lord, which is a better translation for the word master we often hear in this passage, or even the word ‘god’ which is used in the translation we heard a moment ago. 
We don’t talk about ‘Lord’s very often any more, but a Lord is someone who demands and deserves our loyalty, allegiance and worship
So again, Jesus isn’t saying that money is bad, per se, rather he is lifting it up as one of the many things that makes for a bad and unworthy Lord in our lives. 
When we lift up something as ‘Lord’ in our life, part of what we are saying is that we believe this person or thing, as in the case of money, can meet and satisfy our deepest needs. 
The problem with money, or any other thing but God being our Lord is that it is finite.  There is not an unlimited supply of money – or power, or influence or any thing in this world
So if it is money that grants safety and security, then we must immediately participate in the practice of counting, tracking, stock piling and striving for it – because there simply will never be enough
Into this economy of scarcity Jesus provides a different opportunity:
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
When Traci was pregnant with Jack, I had what I think is a common concern – how in the world could I love anyone as much or in the way I loved Charlie?
But that question, as I found out is to misunderstand the infinite nature of love.
When Jack finally came, I didn’t have to divide the love I currently had so that he could have some.  Instead, I suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere had more love to give and share.
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.
It is hard to believe in this world and this life of abundance that Jesus proclaims.
It is so difficult because so much of our lives and so much of our world is thoroughly invested and entrenched in the world of scarcity
This idea of abundance is ultimately the practical thing those that had Jesus killed could not abide by or stand for.
Because those in power were so invested in the world of scarcity that abundance was down right frightening, even threatening. Scarcity, after all, creates fear, and fear creates devotion to those who will protect you (think "threat levels again).
Abundance, on the other hand, produces freedom.   God doesn't operate from scarcity; God operates out of abundance.
 God resurrects – which, when you think about it, is the ultimate act of abundance: creating something, once again, out of nothing, drawing light from darkness, giving life to the dead.
This is the world Jesus invites us into: a world of abundance, generosity, and new life.
But it is also a world of fragility, trust, and vulnerability. Lilies and birds, after all, can't defend themselves but must trust God's providence and love.
And trust is the fundamental issue.  Who or what we choose to trust determines what economy and what worldview we are participating in:  are we going to accept the economy of scarcity and the worldview of finite resources that we all must – literally fight over and for OR are we going to accept Jesus’ invitation to participate in an economy of abundance based on a worldview centered on the infinite nature of God’s love for us. 
We are constantly surrounded by images of scarcity and the ‘reality’ of the world’s economy of fear, scarcity and worry. 
Jesus provides us with a different image and a different way to live our lives. 
When we begin to put our trust in him, not only do we begin to let go of fear and worry for ourselves, but we plant the seeds of the kingdom of God in the here and now by providing the world around us with a alternative picture of what life can look like.
The life of Jesus, even including his death on the cross, is a life exploding with a witness to the infinite abundance of God’s love. 
Jesus life gives us picture after picture, scene after scene of reason to trust in God’s faithfulness, love and providence. 
When we trust in Jesus – and make the God of abundance our Lord, we begin to provide for others pictures and proof of the infinite reality of God’s love. 
And in the light of that, very real love we are able to say – Do not worry.

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