Sermon on Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany by The Rev. Canon Patrick Augustine at Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin


Matthew 6: 24-34
Therefore I tell you. Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. …
Do not worry; do not fear are the words which stand out from the teachings of Jesus for this morning. We live in a fear filled society where we are surrounded by worry. Governor Walker of Wisconsin is worried about balancing the budget, workers fear that his bill would strip most public workers of almost all of their collective bargaining rights. Is the world not worried about situations in the Middle East particularly in Libya? Gas prices already have hit a record high this week, which could signal $4.00+ per gallon prices by this summer. Jobs, unemployment have been of consistent concern and a worry for many during this economic recession. And Jesus is telling us “Don’t be frantic about necessities!”
Taken at the face value, the passage abets irresponsibility and laziness. Furthermore, it is not true to say that all birds are adequately fed and that all lilies reach their fullest beauty. Draughts and other catastrophes cut short the lives of both birds and flowers as well as of humans who trust in God. It simply is not the case that those who seek first the kingdom of God find, invariably, that all things necessary for life are provided for them. And how unwise it is to counsel “Do not be concerned about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). Careful planning can avoid the worst effect of drought and plague.[1] King Solomon said, “Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). So what is it Jesus is saying here. His point is not that we should do nothing; it is that God is present, caring, and actively providing. He is not distant and disinterested in our human affairs. He is a God who so loved the world….. .
There is a remarkable story which shows something of the attitude Jesus was looking for in his disciples. One day a monk Tauler met a beggar.
“God give a good day, my friend,” he said. The beggar answered, “I thank God I never had a bad one.”
The Tauler said, “God give you a happy life, my friend.” “I thank God,” said the beggar, “I am never unhappy.”
Tauler said in amazement, “What do you mean?”
“Well,” said the beggar, “when it is fine I thank God. When it rains I thank God. When I have plenty I thank God. When I am hungry I thank God. And, since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him please me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?”
Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. “Who are you?” he asked.
“I am king,” said the beggar. “Where, then, is your kingdom?” asked Tauler.
The beggar replied quietly, “In my heart.”[2]
Jesus is talking, here, about our attitude in life
I believe Jesus is well aware that his followers need to be productive members of the society. As Dr. John Stott says, “We cannot sit back in an armchair, twiddle our thumbs, mutter “my heavenly Father will provide” and do nothing. We have to work, and not wait for God to provide a roasted goose into our mouth. Similarly, God does not cast all his children in the role of the Prophet Elijah and supply our food miraculously through angels or ravens, but rather through the more normal means of farmers, millers and grocers.” The use of God given talents needs to be put to use for the accomplishment of his purposes.
There is no doubt many of us live worry filled lives. Yes, few of us are exempt from worry and anxiety. Most live with chronic anxiety, and we are sacred of everything—losing our homes, losing our jobs, not having enough for retirement. All of us—rich and poor have legitimate reasons to fret and worry, even though we know such actions do not change the realties we face. Through media, internet and television there is relentless pressure of advertising telling us “there is never enough.” There is constant worry about our looks, figure, image, and style. The infinite longing of the human heart has been interjected into products. Eternity can be found in Calvin Klein bottles. Our hearts are no longer a throne of the Creator. There is deep restlessness in our hearts with little peace and contentment. The media say, “Please worry—all the time! Jesus says, “Don’t worry!” Place your faith and confidence in me. “Wear my yoke, it is easy and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus understands our fears. His call to worry free living is not based on unrealistic views of the world. He speaks to those who understand that God will not leave us without resources or support. We can face life with all its uncertainties and contingencies with the assurance that we are not alone—that God hears, sees, and cares about us and our situations. “Don’t worry, be happy,” because God is control.[3] Let me end my homily with the beautiful words of a poem called doggerel:
Said the robin to the sparrow:
‘I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.’
Said the sparrow to the robin:
‘Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”

[1] Douglas R. A. Hare, Interpretation-Matthew, John Knox Press 1993, Pp.73-75

[2] Michael Green, Matthew Today, Word Publishing , 1988. P.86.

[3] David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Editors. Feasting on the World, year A, Vol. 1. WJK, 2010.Pp. 404-409.

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