August 4, 2019; Psalm 16 and Matthew 6:25-34
In my Bible this passage from Matthew is entitled, “Do Not Worry”. How many of you need to hear this Biblical message often and even then, it’s hard to really hear it? Raise your hands if you struggle with worry (Yep, my hand is raised!). There are certain sermons that are good to preach one or more times a year because that’s how often we need to hear them. This is one of those sermons. This is a beloved gospel passage but it’s also kind of interesting because when you peel back just the beauty of the words and break it down on a more literal level it doesn’t really stand the test of reality. I mean, there are birds that don’t get fed. There are lilies that never bloom because of drought or other factors. Furthermore, it’s good to plan ahead and lay aside provision for food, shelter and clothing. I could find other scripture that would call this active foresight, wisdom. And I’ve now just taken these grace-filled words and kind of made it all ugly. Because sometimes scripture isn’t supposed to be broken down into literal black and white blocks. And when we do take it apart in such a way, we totally miss the essence of the teaching. A large part of what draws us to this Matthew passage is the poetry of the words. Poetry inspires in the mind impressions, images, echoes that resonate within and grasp the voice of truth. If we read this passage as poetry in the manner that is intended what we find here is both censure and reassurance. The admonishment in these words is to let go of our worries, our needless busyness, our innate desire to try and control every aspect of our lives. The encouragement and comfort is that God is ultimately in charge, is looking out for us, is loving us. In the eyes of our heavenly Father, we are much more valuable than the sparrows God also cares for.
What you have on the screen back here are some more restful images from our time away on vacation. We spent time in Massachusetts, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. We had a wonderful time together and just enjoyed stepping out of our normal routine and embracing the adventures that each day presented. And we relaxed and savored the time that of course slipped by too quickly. And with the perspective of a tourist and thus more in tune maybe with life’s poetry, I was able to catch some different glimpses of life that I really appreciated. I was struck by all the simple, white clapboard churches up and down the east coast that graced the countryside looking like a Thomas Kinkaide painting. These churches were homes to active congregations. I saw far more of these simple structures than I did larger brick and mortar churches. And every time we came upon yet another one of these small churches, it made my heart happy because it felt like a calling back to a simpler time in the church.
When we went out to Walden Pond at 4:00 on a Tuesday afternoon I was struck at how many local people of all ages were coming out to the little beach to relax and just enjoy the day for a few hours. Wow, late on a Tuesday afternoon! Who has time to do something like that? Well, a lot of people evidently made the time and the spirit in that place was pretty awe-inspiring. When we arrived there, I was tired and grumpy after a lot of walking and touring in the historic part of Boston earlier in the day. But I left feeling like I had been spiritually fed. When we got to Prince Edward Island, I think all of us were struck with just the slower pace of life. Less bustle. Less traffic. Quiet. Calm. A view of the ocean always close at hand. It was lovely. It was poetic. I know many of us have gotten away for some vacation time and I’m guessing there’s a common desire to carry with us into our daily life some of the sense of relaxation and light-heartedness we experienced in our time away. We want to infuse our life here with just a little bit of that calm, that space to breathe, to be. Instead, we all too quickly get caught up in the frantic pace of our over-committed lives and we lose our grip on the stillness, on