Sermon for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 11, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 12:22-34
Sermon Theme: “Is It Really Worth Worrying about?”
(Sources: Emphasis Online Commentary; Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Brokhof, Series C, Workbook; Nelson’s 3-in-1)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
All of us worry, don’t we? It’s part of life.
When G. K. Chesterton was once asked by a reporter, “If you were a preacher, and you could only give one sermon, what would it be about?,” he immediately replied, “I’d preach about worry!” He knew what it was to be human. Worry motivates a lot of our actions. And, my gosh, what we sometimes worry about!
Pastor Kaul tells the story about a “yuppie,” as he referred to him, who had been in a car accident on a dangerous mountain road. When a highway patrolman came upon the scene, he found the “yuppie” peering over the edge of the cliff and wailing, “My BMW! My BMW!!
In disbelief the officer said, “Sir, you are grieving over the loss of your BMW. You don’t even seem to realize that your arm has been torn off in the accident.”
Whereupon the “yuppie” again began to wail, crying out, “My Rolex! My Rolex!”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with sports cars and expensive watches. But this story illustrates how ridiculous it is when our priorities are misplaced. The “yuppie” could certainly replace his car and his timepiece. His arm, however, was another matter.
How much more ridiculous it is when we consider our earthly status and possessions to be of higher priority than the kingdom of God! “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Jesus says in our text.
Maybe that’s really the point of what Jesus is trying to say. Our worries are essentially the test of our values. We worry about things that are the most important to us in life.
That’s why Jesus encourages us to take the “Worry Test.” What are you the most anxious about? What troubles you the most? What keeps you awake at night or disturbs your thoughts most often during the day? When we take the test we find out where our hearts are at. The worry test teaches us the schedule of values in our lives.
You remember not too long ago, we considered the Mary/Martha story, and Jesus told Martha that she worried about too many things that didn’t matter very much, and Mary had made the better choice, because she placed spiritual values above material values. Jesus says in our text, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.” Isn’t that essentially what He told Martha – ‘Don’t worry about what you will eat.’
We all worry, and some of us worry a lot, but our worries surround the things that we value most in life. Take the “Worry Test,” Jesus tells us. List the concerns that bother you the most. Then read over your list, and when you do that you will find where your heart is, and it may not be in the right place.
Some of us get up every morning and think, ‘Oh, what new worries do I have to worry about today?’ And as the day goes on, we think, ‘Oh, good, there are no new worries showing up today, so, gosh, I have only the old worries to worry about!’ I have to admit that sounds like me!
So the challenge of Jesus is not to stop worrying altogether. It certainly doesn’t help us any, does it, when a strongly self-righteous person tells us we must stop worrying, that worrying is an affront to God. To be human is to have worries and frets and cares. We are affected by life. Jesus understands that, He made Himself to be a human being so that He could understand us, and help us. He also knows what wear and tear this worrying and anxiety cause us, — it affects our blood pressure, our heart, our appetite, our sleeping, our relationships, etc. He’s not fussing at us to make us feel guilty, He’s trying to help us to keep us from hurting ourselves.
The issue, according to Jesus, is to change our goals and values and treasure so that, in the end, our worries will take on a more godly character.
He says in our text, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”
He follows that statement with some wonderfully soothing picture language; the imagery itself soothes and calms us. He continues, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”
You may be thinking at this point, ‘Sure, we can all deal with the small, daily frets and worries of this life, but what about when the big things come into our lives, like cancer, long-term illness, and death? ‘Well, let me share a true story with you.
The great modern Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was sent to the Siberian labor camps by the Communists. There, like the other prisoners, he was subjected to endless back-breaking labor in the rock quarries. As if that were not enough, the prison doctor told him that he had cancer, and he would die soon.
The next day, he was so filled with anxiety and depression, he could hardly get out of his bunk. As he tried to work, his mind was so numb, he had so little energy, he dropped his shovel and sat down, not caring whether the guards shot him or not – if they shot him, at least he would be out of his misery.
“Just then,” he wrote, “I felt someone standing near me. I looked up, and there was an old man. I’d never seen him before. I don’t remember ever seeing him again. But he knelt over me, and he took a stick, and he drew a cross on the ground in front of me.”
That strange incident changed Solzhenitsyn. “That cross,” he wrote, “made me see things in a new way! There’s a power in this universe that is bigger than any empire or any government! There’s a God who gives life meaning, who is life itself! That’s what really matters here! That’s why we exist! That’s why Jesus came to earth for us!”
Solzhenitsyn says that he sat there thinking about it all for a few more minutes. Then he stood up, picked up his shovel, and went back to work. Things wouldn’t change around him for over a year, but inside he was a new person. God lives! God cares! God is working out his purposes!
That put Solzhenitsyn’s worries in their place. They didn’t vanish or disappear suddenly. Instead, they were caught up into a larger perspective of concern. How can I share the life of Jesus? How can my days, however many or few they may be, be a reflection of His kingdom, His power, and His glory?
Let us take the Worry Test, which is a test of our values, find our values, and truly understand that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.