Epiphany 8a – Sunday 27th February 2011
Matthew 6: 24-34
I was extremely tempted to call this blog “Don’t worry, be happy”, in grateful homage to Bobby McFerrin and his 1988 smash hit record. “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry, be happy…” – yeah, that’s the one.
But then I had a massive panic attack that everybody this week would be calling their blog “Don’t worry, be happy”. I daren’t look. Am I right? Oh the worry of it all.
But then I had another thought. Thinking about Bobby McFerrin’s song I was reminded that it was the first a cappella (is that one word or two – I always worry over it) song that reached number one. It had a very laid back feel to it, it made you want to kick your shoes off, lie out in the sun and sip a nice cold beer.
Anyway, as soon as I had that thought I read the words of Richard Beaton over at WorkingPreacher.org, who commented on this whole passage from Matthew 6:
Jesus’ words seem out of step with our society and on the surface they lack coherence with the lives we are living. As Ulrich Luz has put it, when interpreted in a superficial manner, this statement could only have been written by a single guy living a carefree life on the beach in sunny Galilee.
If there’s one obvious point to be made here it is that these words of Jesus must be observed in context. He’s not just saying “Why worry?” (Now I’m beginning to confuse you, introducing a Dire Straits song following the Bobby McFerrin one – I’m fretting you’re just going to leave the blog at this point). This passage doesn’t stand on its own. As the Sermon on the Mount, it’s connected backwards and forwards in the text.
David Ewart (did I pronounce that right?) in his blog at Holy Textures very helpfully list the series of worries that precede our passage, including:
- Being salt of the earth and light of the world
- Obeying and fulfilling the law
- Anger and reconciliation
- Adultery in our hearts
- Do not retaliate, instead publically expose the unjust authority
- Love your enemies
- Don’t think you can serve two masters: God and wealth
He says the keyword is the first from verse 25: “Therefore … (do not worry)”.
You know, it’s like when you’re asked to pop to the supermarket on the way home from work, and you’re given a long shopping list and you mentally have to remember it all. I always worry that I’m going to forget something … and I usually do … and it’s normally the most important item! Well, the point is the same. Jesus presents us with a long list of things to do, to follow, to remember and we worry whether we’re up to the challenge. So he tells us, don’t worry.
Now that’s not to diminish any of the lessons he has asked us to learn so far. Instead, verse 33 becomes the second keyverse (I’m worrying that I’m having too many key points):
“But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.” (Contemporary English Version)
David Ewart hits the nail on the head by summing up:
The opposite of worry/fear/anxiety is faith – or better still – trust. If we were to trust in God as simply and completely as the birds of the air and the flowers of the field do, we would not be anxious. We WOULD still have responsibilities but would not be anxious about them.
If we were to add up all the tasks that Jesus calls us to, if we were to discover all the laws and rules that God says we must live our lives by then the size of the panic attack would be enormous. But Jesus says, “Chillax” (I worry people truly understand what that means).
He has given us the means by which to live the Christian life – the grace of God, the peace of Christ, the gift of the Spirit. We need to have trust. To have faith. To have confidence. To live the kingdom life without worry.
Got to stop here. I’m bothered that I’ve used too many words.