“Why worry?”, Jesus says. Why worry! Easy for you to say, son of the Most High. Worrying is my middle name. I’ve got real concerns. You want me to just stop? Let me tell you a story. He was 35 and lying in a hospital bed in Hamilton after having had a massive stroke. He was not expected to live and he knew it. It was the first time I have ever shaken hands with mortality. I was 33 at the time. He had a condition, unknown to himself at the time, called CAD, Coronary Artery Disease, which essentially means his body produces too much cholesterol which, of course, clogs his arteries. There was too much damage done to be fixed.
I must have come into his room looking like a mourner, for the first thing he said was, “What are you, of all people, looking so sad about?” Empathetically I said, “I heard the news.” “And what of it?” he said. “Well, it is not good.” “Not good! Not good! Of course it is good news!” My education in Pastoral Care immediately told me he was in denial. He wasn’t. It was time for me to learn.
“Of course this is good news. I am going to meet my maker. I am going to that mysterious realm of eternal light, glory and love. It is not as if my soul is dying with this piece of flesh I wear. I shall shake off this disease and live forever healthy and whole. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m no fool. I will miss my wonderful wife and kids. But what do I have to regret? I had wonderful parents. I was raised in a loving home with all the opportunities a kid could ever want; played every sport you can think of; I received as much education as I wanted; I had a job I loved; great buddies who I served the community with; I have known true love
and the miracle of children’s innocence. I have had a rich and good life. I regret or mourn for nothing. Besides, as I said, my life is a long way from being over and I will be with my wife and children forever.
The cup half empty or half full? Grateful for what you have or mourning what you believe you were cheated out of? Sacristy thinking or thanksgiving thinking? Bird in the hand or the two you think are in the bush?
We built the world we live in, the kind of society we have, the goals and values we hold. The choices by which we live have been ours alone. Much of our lives are lived in the fear of sacristy, that we will not have enough. So, we have become a culture which strives. Strives for this thing called prosperity which we have mislabeled. For us, prosperity means having. We strive to build barns and fill them with things that will sustain the body. Problem is, no one can ever determine just how much they may need. So, when the first barn becomes full, we build an even bigger barn, and bigger barns still.
Along with that building comes the ideologies by which society functions. Survival of the fittest. If we are to fill our bigger and bigger barns, then we must become competitive, for there are only so many resources to go around. So we strive to get the best education, get the top jobs, make that big money, live in the best neighbourhoods, join the country club……
As our golden calf of prosperity shines brighter and brighter, the stress grows. University students are experiencing an all-time high of anxiety, stress and depression; are committing suicide because death is a preferable option to living with this stress.
I read a sad story of a man who was a multi-billionaire. He ran a corporation that profited billions a year. Had it all. Lived in a mansion, had vacation homes he never saw, private jet, etc, etc, etc, He also had a beautiful woman as his life partner, great kids, good friends. Yet, so stressed was he that his business would not be able to maintain his business quote, so he committed suicide.
We continue to consume and consume unabated, tearing our planet to shreds for fear of sacristy both physical and social.
And Jesus says, “You have your reward.” This is it. This is the result of what you wanted. “What profits a person if they gain the whole world and lose their own souls?”
Our eyes have grown so dim. We have come to believe that this is it, this life we live is all there is and the best we can do as faithful people is to have God walk beside us aiding us through this life.
I want you to meet someone.
(a blank square)
Meet God. I don’t know how else to portray a God who is the alpha and the omega, who is in all things in all time, who has no restrictions of time or space, and is constant light, energy and love. A God who is in everything and of everything.
(a square with a line and a dot at the end)
And flowing through this eternity within God, not the other way around, is the time line of the earth’s existence. A world that has been around for millions of years is only a blip within God’s eternity. You see that circle on the end of that line? That’s us. That‘s the little dot of time we humans have occupied this earth. And inside that circle is even a smaller dot. That’s you and me, my friends. That’s the grain of sand our lives occupy in eternity.
When Jesus said, “Don’t worry,” I don’t believe that he was denying that we have concerns or cares in our lives. But he was asking us to consider what do we worry and stress over in the context of eternity?
Many of our worries have been of our own making; have been the result of the world we have created, the false gods we have pursued, what we deem important.
Nancy and I watched a program last night that showed us how Brazil is the fastest growing car market in the world. Every one there wants a car. The problem is there are already too many cars on the roads. You can’t really drive anywhere. The average commute time to work is 3 hours. They have no place to park all these cars so they are taking over residential high-rises and stacking cars in different levels with mechanical lifts. Yet, people are still buying cars because it is a symbol of prosperity, of having arrived. Many of our worries and stresses we create for ourselves.
It was the same way in Jesus’ time. Jesus is not saying that we do not have real worries and concerns. I don’t even think he is saying if you believe in me all your worries will fade away. What he is saying is we need to lift our eyes from this world and be transformed. This world we inhabit, this society we have built, is not real. Everything in this world will come to an end. That is the very definition of our temporal exist. Everything is born. Everything dies.
All the monuments we have built to ourselves will someday return to the dust. We will either destroy the earth ourselves by making in uninhabitable for anything, or at some point, maybe a 1000 millions years from now, but at some point scientists tell us that the sun will expand and implode and what will be left is simply another dark hole in space.
(picture of a man on a mountaintop)
Francis Bacon once wrote that if you emptied people’s heads of their vanity, they would be left empty. So has been our preoccupation with ourselves. There is another kingdom. There is a kingdom which has always been and will always be. People have dismissed it as myth, because it is not a kingdom we can analyse with our science. But this kingdom exists far before our age of so-called enlightenment and will exist far after. There is a kingdom where the prosperity is defined as love, justice, equality and peace. And it is not an existential reality. It is a kingdom that runs through and within our world. We could create such a place here on earth if we choose to listen to God and follow God’s way.
God says, “You create all this stress and worry in this world and then expect me to come around and fix it for you. I am fixing it for you
but you don’t want to listen. Honestly, if your saw life from the perspective of eternity, what could all your worrying do to extend your life even one day? You worry about who are and how the world will see you. You obsess over this thing called success and fitting in. Yet, I have already told you that not even Solomon, with all his wealth and beauty, can match the lilies I have painted in the fields. How much more beautiful are you, my creations. You worry over having enough to eat. Yet, the birds of the air neither spin nor toil and don’t they have enough? I have created a world where there is more than enough for everyone, if you would only have faith enough to tear open the doors of your barns and share.”
And I can say to you this morning that we can all lay on the deathbeds of this earth bemoaning what we didn’t have and didn’t get or we can, like my friend in that hospital bed, see the good news of God’s kingdom. In the light of eternity, is all our worrying going to change anything. In the light of faith, is there not good news to experience. In the reality of God’s kingdom, a kingdom of peace, justice, equality and love, is there anything left to want?