“Do not worry about anything,” so says Paul in his letter to a bunch of church-goers two thousand years ago. Obviously he didn’t realize how much those very words would provide the most immense challenge imaginable for us church-goers two thousand years later. “Do not worry about anything,” so he tells us as we enter this week that is meant to be overflowing with thanksgiving, with counting our blessings, with a sense of optimism, joy, beauty, and grace taking over our life. If only it were that simple. If only us human beings could be so intrinsically wired to just wake up with all that positive reinforcement that would make this life so much easier to live to the fullest. Instead, we do worry. Sorry, Paul.
This week we will worry about our family as they travel all over the country. We will worry about whether or not we have everything we need to make the meal that evidently makes or breaks an entire national holiday. We will worry about how early we need to get up the day after to maximize on all the savings at every possible store within a hundred mile radius. And still persistently in the background of our hearts and minds we worry about our nation, especially after this tumultuous 2016. We worry about what we are doing to each other. We worry about what happens next not just for a general outlook on our country, but for our family and friends, the ones we worry about the most, the ones who keep us up at night because we love them just that much. And yet Paul somehow believes we can actually even consider taking his advice, “Do not worry about anything.” Good try, Paul.
And yet that mindset tends to give in to one of our favorite catch-phrases for us church-goers. We say, “Let go and let God.” Or we will say that, “we lay everything down at the foot of the cross.” We will try to convince ourselves that we can simply, somehow against our intrinsically-wired worried selves, that we will let God take care of all our problems. And so of course this week should remind us to give thanks to this God Who does so much for the whole world, saving us all from sin and death, not to mention taking care of everything that comes up in our lifetime: all the worries that plague our mind, not just with our own jobs and homes, but with the health of our loved ones, and on and on. Except even Paul in his overly optimistic-self is not going along with that vision of God and for church-goers who can come to worship and leave everything in the sanctuary for God to take care of, in the end.
Because in that same letter to us church-goers telling us to not worry about a thing, he also says, “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.” And what we know about this Paul even two thousand years later is that he never stopped spreading this message of hope, developing all these connections with people in different places, listening to their stories, being beside them in their most vulnerable moments, doing the most simple things like having a meal with them; all of it adding up to more and more sisters and brothers in Christ united by this God Who loves us all, and empowers people like Paul and all of us to bring that love to life.
So no, “do not worry about anything,” does not give us permission to simply, “Let go and let God” take care of it. “Do not worry about anything,” means we as the church will not allow worrying to define us. We will not stay in our pews and hope that somehow God will take care of everything for us. We will not proclaim bad news about the world and where it may be going next and think that it’s no longer worth being the church anymore. There’s enough cynicism plaguing our communities now. We proclaim Good News, the Greatest News of all. We proclaim that this God is still alive and well, and incredibly active in places near and far away.
So we will come together with friends and family, including the ones who drive us absolutely nuts every holiday, and will even moreso this time around when the dreaded election topic comes up. Still we absolutely love them in spite of any differences we may have. And we as a church family will gather up all the items for the Thanksgiving food baskets and deliver them to families in need. We will not sit back and wait for someone else to do it. We have the gifts, so we will share them with others! That’s what we do as children of God, the same God Who shared with us the life and death of the only Son and gave us the Greatest News that defines every day of our life: that we are loved, that we are cherished, that we are worth dying for, and it evidently does not stop with us church-goers, but with all children of God throughout this broken world. So this week and every day of this life, we most certainly give thanks to this God of a love we still cannot fathom, a love that has saved us all now and forevermore. Thanks be to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon