(This sermon was preached at a Carnegie Ministerium Thanksgiving Service on Sunday, November 18, 2018)
Let us pray: Blessed Lord who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant me so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and hold ever fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Source: The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle, p. 211)
I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the very first time this year. And that means, for the very first time, I am the one who worries about making sure there are enough dishes and pans and chairs. I’m the one who has to clean the house and make sure all the sheets are clean and ready to use. I’m the one who has to buy food. I’m the one who has to know when everyone is arriving and leaving and who’s allergic to what.
So much anxiety!
The fact that my first thought was for the anxieties of hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and not for the chance to host friends and family, or to enjoy wonderful food together–because I am not cooking–, or to see people who live out of state, says a lot about me, and about humans in general. We focus on the worries and stresses instead of on the good and beautiful parts of life.
This is not new: Jesus instructs us, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Even Joel writes, “Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice.”
This is not some instruction in mental gymnastics–God’s not telling us to never again, ever EVER, think about what is worrying us. We’re not supposed to stop worrying as suddenly as if we cut it out of our brains and send it away with force of will. Instead, this command to not worry and not fear is grounded in truth: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Jesus continues. Joel agrees: “Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!”
We are told not to fear–not as something to add to our to do list, not as something to accomplish based on will power alone, but because our lives are bigger than just us. We have God. We can look to how God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field. We can remember how God has provided for us in the past, treasure stories we’ve heard of God’s salvation and provision. And we can rejoice that “the Lord has done great things!” We can remember how God saved the Israelites from slavery, remained faithful to them through the people’s unfaithfulnesses. We can remember Jesus’ coming to earth, His death and resurrection. We can remember how God has guided the church and its people through the ages, through changes of every kind.
We can let go of our fears and anxieties because God is our foundation. God will be with us, whether we burn the turkey this week or something far worse happens. God will be with us.
Alleluia, and Amen.