Summary: Worry can keep us from seeing and celebrating God's great blessings in our lives, but the cure for worry is a life lived in thanksgiving!
We worry a lot. Probably because we feel like there are a lot of things to worry about. Like I suspect that right now many of us are worried about Thanksgiving this week. What will the traffic be like for our travels or for those who are traveling to see us? Will the turkey thaw in time? Will the crazy cousin cause problems again this year like he does every year? Oftentimes, we get so worried about making preparations for Thanksgiving that we don’t really enjoy the holiday very much; especially when we spend hours preparing the perfect spread, which is then gobbled up in twenty minutes or less. And it’s not just Thanksgiving. We work ourselves into a frenzy worrying over all sorts of things. In fact, worry is such a part of our lives that if we’re not worried about something, we worry that we’re forgetting something. Some of our worries are mundane; like, what to cook for dinner tonight, or what we will wear tomorrow. But there are other worries which are very serious; I’m sure these past few weeks we’ve been very worried about potential terrorist attacks in our own country.
Certainly, there are legitimate fears that we experience. And a healthy level of worry or concern keeps us alert and cautious, hopefully preventing us from doing dumb things like trying to dry our hair while we’re in the bathtub. But worry can also be distracting and even paralyzing. We become so consumed with worry that we don’t enjoy life, as I mentioned often happens at Thanksgiving and around the holidays. We don’t take time to pause, enjoy the holiday, our family and friends, because we are too worried about trying to make the holiday perfect.
It’s that sort of all-consuming worry which Jesus warns about in this passage from his Sermon on the Mount that we heard a few moments ago. Christ tells us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. And then he asks this great question, “Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?” You see, the problem with worrying is that it doesn’t really accomplish anything. But even more than that, worrying keeps us from focusing on the things that really matter. I think that’s why Jesus was so adamant that we not worry. If we are worried about the turkey, how can we enjoy time with family? If we are worried about terrorism, how can we even go to the store? If we are worried about getting out of church on time so we can beat the Baptists to lunch, how can we worship God? And if we are constantly mired in the negativity that worry breeds, how can we see, know, and appreciate the countless ways God blesses us, much less give thanks to God for all those things?!?
I think one of the greatest antidotes to worry is constant praise and thanks-giving to God. In our proclamation this morning, you heard Paul ask the question, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?” God is our Source and Provider, the giver of every good thing. Alex Haley, a fellow East Tennessean and the author of Roots, had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, “Why is that there?” Alex Haley answered, “Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and I begin to feel proud of myself, I look over at that turtle on top of the fence post and I remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”
God has blessed us richly in every way possible. We have all that we need because of God in Jesus Christ. We are here because God has brought us here. We are blessed because through Jesus Christ, God’s abundant grace has poured over us. We have so much to be thankful to God for, yet here we are at this time of Thanksgiving, and most of us are probably more worried and distracted than thankful. It is so easy for us to get caught up in worry, to fret, to be distracted by the troubles of this world. One of the great mistakes of life is to turn to God only in the overpowering emergencies or the shattering crises. It is so easy for many of us to curse God; to blame God when catastrophe strikes; to feel that God has abandoned us in our times of greatest need.
Yet listen again to Jesus’ words to us this morning. “Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?... And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you…?”