Saturday, February 25, 2017

Don't worry, be happy!


Some of you might remember the Bobby McFerrin song from the late 1980s: “Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy.” My apologies in advance – that song is now going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. But, Bobby was onto something in this song. Many of us worry about many things. We worry about a roof over our heads. We worry about how to pay the rent. We worry about our spouses, our children, our friends, about the many troubles and challenges of life. And the song’s prescription for these worries is of course very simple – don’t worry, instead be happy.

This song came to mind because we hear the Word of God calling us into much the same reality today. We hear today a chorus of voices encouraging us to leave our worries behind. Isaiah told us to leave them behind because the Lord “will never forget you.” The Psalm told us that we need not worry because God is “our rock and our salvation.” And Jesus says it boldly and directly, “Do not worry about your lives.” In fact, He says it not once, but four times in this brief passage today.

Today’s Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount that we have been hearing from for the last month or so and once again we cannot help but be challenged by Jesus’ words. On one hand we hear Him saying ‘don’t worry’ and we’re tempted to respond that it is easier said and done. That we may try over and over again not to worry but the concerns of family and work and more keep creeping into our thoughts. But, I hope that when we hear these words of Jesus, “Do not worry,” that we also hear an invitation that is incredibly attractive to us. Jesus is offering us an invitation into a life that is not filled with unnecessary anxiety and fruitless worry; a freedom from the tension that can overtake our thoughts and paralyze our lives. Anyone interested in that?

We worry about so many things. War and terrorism; money and the state of the economy; health and healthcare; paying our bills; global warming; whether or not our job is safe; getting into or out of debt. And if we’re not worrying about big things, we’re probably worrying about small things: which shirt should I wear today? Am I going to be late for church – again? Should I have that difficult conversation that I have been avoiding? Did I lock the door on the way out? Did I leave the iron plugged in? If we’re not worrying about ourselves we’re worrying about our children; or our parents; or our friends and neighbors; or our world. It seems that it is in our nature to worry. Some people even worry about how much they worry.

The real problem with our worries are that more often than not our worry is misdirected and a waste of time. We spend 40% of our worry on things that will never happen; 30% on things in the past that can’t be changed; 12% on mostly untrue criticism by others; 10% on health; and only 8% on real problems that can be faced and changed.

Today’s invitation is incredibly attractive: do not worry about your life. So, if we’re not worrying, what are we doing? The answer is: when we clear up some space from worrying, it gives us the room to trust instead. We’re called to trust that God has a plan for our lives and that our job is to put Him front and center in our lives so that we can see that plan more clearly. Why worry when you can trust instead?

The way we embrace that trust is by doing what God calls us to do. Instead of worry, we find space to be kinder to one another; to be a presence of love to one another; offering a smile when one is needed; being a God-like presence to all those around us – instead of being tied up in the knots of worry and anxiety. Why worry when you can trust God and do something good instead?

When we put aside worry, it also opens up space for us to be a people of hope. We are called to live marked by hope in God’s goodness; that even when tempted to worry about the challenging moment in our lives – bills, family, struggles, whatever – that we are a people of hope; who live in the firm hope that all things will work for the good; that God will triumph; that we can overcome the challenges we face or at least learn to face them with God and turn them into opportunities for God’s love, joy, compassion and mercy to shine in us and through us. Why worry when you can offer hope instead?

And how can we be so confident in the midst of our own anxieties to instead act and trust and hope? We heard the answer in our first reading from Isaiah, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Our tender and loving God never – ever – forgets us. He is always right here, by our side, in our hearts, surrounding us with His love, filling each moment – even our difficult moments – with His presence. He will never forget us. That’s His promise to each and every one of us. And it is a promise that we can never lose.

So, my brothers and sisters, accept the invitation to freedom that Jesus places before us today, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Let go of the anxiety that can bring us down, tie us up in knots, keep us from being the people God calls us to be. Let it go. Don’t worry. Why worry when you can act; when you can trust; when you can hope?

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

May the Lord give you peace.

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