2 Pentecost-proper 3A
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 3:24-34 Sermon
May 25, 2008
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
408 "Praise To The Lord, The Almighty, The King Of Creation"
572 "Children Of The Heavenly Father"
459 "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"
553 "Jesus Calls Us O'er The Tumult"
"DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY"
TEXT (vs. 31-34): "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Back in 1988, a recording artist by the name of Bobby McFerrin made history. He wrote and performed the first, and to date the only a cappella song to reach number one on the charts. And as a matter of information, a cappella is an Italian word which has come to mean "without musical accompaniment."
Even though that fact in and of itself makes the song distinctive, the lyrics are also quite unique. Now I won't sing it to you, but I'll share a little bit of the opening lines of the song. So here goes: "Here is a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note-for-note, don't worry; be happy. In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don't worry; be happy...."
Many of you know the song; and I daresay that as much as it was played on the radio in by-gone years, you've probably been guilty of singing along with it, or at least tapping your toes to the melody. And if you've ever seen the video of this song, you'll see scenes of Robin Williams dancing to the music. And if you haven't seen it and want to, it's readily available on the internet on "You Tube."
It's one of those catchy, uplifting sort of songs; and once you've heard it, it's hard to get it out of your head. And even though it was popular some twenty years ago, it still gets air time on the radio even today.
In any event, the phrase "don't worry; be happy" caught on because of this song. To many people, this phrase might sound like an overly simplistic solution to life's problems. Someone might say: "What do you mean, ‘don't worry; be happy?' That might be fine for YOU to say that, but you don't have all of the problems in life that I do."
It makes me wonder that when people would hear this song and sing along with it, or have it stuck in their head, how seriously did they regard the lyrics? Did they find any truth to that little phrase? And the bigger question is, do people actually want to be happy and not worry?
In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus is presenting this same message to us, in his own way and with his own words. In verse 27 Jesus asks, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" In other words, what possible good can come out of worrying? Will it make you live longer? Will it improve a bad situation? Will you be happier or healthier because you've worried about something?
Bobby McFerrin in his song would answer this by saying: "In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double..."
So, on the basis of our Gospel lesson for today, let's tackle this subject of worry, head-on.
Looking back at my experience with worriers, my overall conclusion is that they can be some of the biggest pains in the neck there are. People who are compulsive worriers can be almost inconsolable at times.
When someone wants a solution to a problem that's worrying them, most of the time what they REALLY want is someone to worry along with them. They aren't looking to be lifted out of their worrisome state; they want to drag you down in the pit with them. It's like the old saying goes, "misery loves company."
And when you try to get them to stop worrying, they get the mistaken impression that you don't care about them or the situation. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus found himself in a similar situation. In Luke 10, 38-42 we read the story about Jesus being a guest at the home of Mary and Martha. Martha was the stereotypical "fuss-budget" and quite the worrier. She was very pre-occupied with making sure everything was perfect for Jesus. The house had to be in complete order-perfect in every detail, and the meal had to be nothing less than a gourmet's delight.
So when things weren't going the way Martha thought they should, she begins to fuss and complain. Jesus' response is recorded in verses 41 and 42: "Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Scripture doesn't record Martha's response to Jesus' advice to her, but you can bet that she was probably a little startled with what Jesus had to say. She was probably expecting him to tell Mary, "Okay, there's time for this later; you'd better go and help your sister now." His "don't worry, be happy" attitude to the situation wasn't what she expected, nor was it really what she wanted him to say.
Worry has some very negative consequences. In Martha's case, it was taking the focus away from Jesus and his message, and putting it on things that were in reality quite trivial and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
This happens with people today as well. People will lose sleep and literally make themselves ill with worry. People develop ulcers, have their blood pressure skyrocket, twist their hair from their scalp, and experience other negative physical and emotional effects, all because of worry. Sometimes alcohol and drugs enter the picture. And besides that, they will make everyone around them miserable and want to keep their distance.
I think that one of the biggest mistakes people make is in defining the words "worry" and "concern." People will frequently try to mask their worry by calling it "concern" in an attempt to make it legitimate in their own minds.
"Concern" is something that causes us to take the appropriate action. "Worry" is entirely self-focused, where we will sit and stew over something or someone. Allow me to give you an example.
Six days from now will be the second anniversary of my father's death. In the days and weeks leading up to it, my father had a lot of concerns. He knew he was going to die soon. He wasn't worried about dying at all. He knew where he was going and what awaited him. And when he died, he was at peace.
But there were concerns. He was concerned about my mother and brother, and that they would be taken care of. He wanted my mother to have a new car. He wanted to be sure all his affairs were in order with his estate. He wanted me to be sure certain things were attended to, and that I knew where various things were, and what his wishes were. So we had conversations about these things; and one-by-one, we took care of things. These were concerns, and we took the appropriate action.
Certainly things were emotional, and he expressed a variety of feelings; however worry wasn't one of them. He didn't lie awake at night fretting over things. He didn't sit and stew. He didn't make his last days miserable with a lot of needless baggage. With an illness like his, he was experiencing pain and perhaps not a lot of happiness associated with that; but he didn't make those around him miserable with continual worry either. And yes, he did have some very happy times during those last days when he had the opportunity to visit with some old friends and experience the love and support of those around him. "Don't worry; be happy." Thankfully Satan didn't rob him of the happiness he experienced by clouding it with needless worry.
I think that worry is one of the things Satan uses against us very effectively. He tries to get us to focus inward on our own problems and difficulties. When we do this, we so often forget the solace our Saviour gives to us. So it's time to re-focus our thoughts and seek help where it can be found.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus turns the focus of the worrier to nature. Of course nature in and of itself isn't going to bring peace, but rather it shows the love and care of the creator. In verse 26 Jesus says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" And then in verses 28-29 he continues, "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."
Indeed, when God is in charge, what is there to worry about? Jesus has pointed out the futility in worrying in our text for today, and the irritation worry can create in the Mary and Martha story. In verse 32 of our text Jesus says, "For the pagans run after all these things..."
Why do the pagans, i.e. the unbelievers run after these things of the world? It's because they have nothing else except what is here and now. They have no assurance of heaven. They have no hope for the future.
But the Christian has something far more comforting in their future. They have an eternal hope ahead, which is certain and sure.
Furthermore, the Christian knows that they can take all of their worries and cares and lay them at the foot of the cross. Jesus is a friend of the sinner; therefore he is our friend. He cares very much about each and every one of us. And he doesn't want us to get stuck in the pity pot of worry.
Jesus not only tells us not to worry, but he takes away all of the reasons we might have to worry. We have the assurance that we are safe in his loving arms.
So when we worry, it gives evidence of our doubt in his loving care. Worry is the tell-tale sign that we don't trust God with the issues in our life. Worry is a tool of the devil, and represents the effect sin has on us.
So we go to Jesus, asking forgiveness for our sin. We don't ask him to worry with us or support it, but to completely remove it from us. And we have the assurance that he does.
Through faith, we have accepted him as our Saviour from sin. In verse 33 of our text, Jesus says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Seeking God's kingdom and righteousness only comes through faith in Jesus our Saviour. Faith in Jesus is the insurance that our eternal hope is secure, and that our cares of this world are in good hands.
This morning, I'd like you to consider one other thing. You probably know that certain colors don't go together when it comes to clothing or decorating. George Goble once made the following comment on the Johnny Carson show: "Have you ever felt like the world was a black tuxedo, and you were a pair of brown shoes?" Of course he was referring to the fact that brown and black don't go together. We also don't mix colors like red and orange, purple and red, lime green and fuchsia, red and pink, kelly green and yellow, or other combinations that might give us a headache.
So people try to pick complimentary colors when choosing clothes, or decorating a house. Businesses spend large sums of money developing color schemes for their logos and products that make them aesthetically pleasing to the consumer.
But if you want the best lesson in color, just walk outside and take a look around you. Look at the birds in the air or the flowers in the field. Look at what God has done in nature. He has taken every conceivable color there is, put them all together, and the result is something beautiful. He puts colors together that would make every fashion expert or interior decorator cringe.
That's the difference between human beings being in charge of things, and God being in charge of things. That's the difference between God's judgment and man's judgment. That's the difference between God's creation and man's creation. In verses 28 and 29 of our text for today, Jesus says: "...See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."
So when we're tempted to worry, just walk outside and look around. If God cares for nature like he has, how much more will he care for us who are his children?
There's one last thing to consider. God didn't have to make sunsets, or mountains, or seascapes, or wildflowers beautiful; but he did. He didn't have to make the birds attractive or give them beautiful songs to sing; but he did. He did not have to give us the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon or the Royal Gorge; but he did. He did not have to give us the magical sight of a winter's snow, or the spring blossoms, or the vibrant fall colors; but he did. He did not have to make the sights and sounds of his creation enjoyable to us; but he did.
Through faith in Jesus our Saviour, he has taken sinful people like us, and has transformed us into a beautiful new creation. He didn't have to care for us, but he has. He didn't have to forgive us, but he has. He didn't have to promise us eternity in heaven, but he has. He didn't have to send his Son Jesus to die for us, but he did. He didn't have to love us, but he does.
"Here is a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note-for-note, don't worry; be happy."