Sermon Details


Date: 01/03/2015/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

Matthew 6:25-34

Continuing our sermon series based on the book “Jesus Is The Question” by Martin Copenhaver, we come to the chapter Questions About Worry. Martin Copenhaver writes in his book:

“It is telling that Jesus’ longest discourse on a human emotion is about worry. That is particularly remarkable in light of all the other possibilities. He could have talked most extensively about sadness, fear, grief, loneliness, or shame. Instead, it is worry he addresses at length. He could have talked at greater length about positive emotions—emotions such as happiness, love, or gratitude. Of course, he addresses all of those emotions and more, but Jesus’ longest discourse about any human emotion is reserved for worry.”

I want to start being clear what worrying is, and what worrying is not. Sometimes we get confused about what words mean, and we end up talking and thinking about different things even though we thought we are discussing about the same thing.

Worry is not “thinking” or “planning” or “being realistic”. Worry is getting stuck thinking about something over and over, and then not doing something about the situation that is affecting you. Some folks have told me before “don’t worry about this” and in my head, I go – but i am not worrying – i am actually thinking and considering about what is the best approach to the situation so i can then do something about it. Of course, sometimes the best approach is not to do something at all – but that is not worrying.

“Worry is atheism.” E. Stanley Jones states. Martin Copenhaver quotes Jones in this chapter, and points out that Jones say that worry implies there is no God, or at least not a God who cares or a God who can act. Worry says, “It is all up to me.” Worry sings, “I’ve got the whole world in my hands.” It is the form of atheism that frets, “If I don’t do it, it’s not going to happen.”

I don’t agree with Jones though. Jones’ views sound as though we can just sit back and let God take over. It sounds dangerously like those folks who believe that prayer alone will heal someone who is need of medical attention and medical treatment. I must be clear here – I am not saying that prayer does not work – but rather prayer alone is not going to work. Let me give you an analogy. Let me talk about something that worries me a lot when I was younger. I am sure many of you, like me, suffer from the same anxiety about examinations. To this day, I still wake up from nightmares that I overslept for my examination, or I didn’t prepare for my examination. If we did not prepare and study for the examination, no amount of prayer is going to help us.

I also believe that thinking that everything is up to us isn’t good either. Like Jones says, “Worry is atheism.” Either that, or thinking that we are God, and everything is up to us. It is not a matter of either-or. Some people may have the opinion that when we seek medical attention and medical treatment, it is because we lack faith. So they adamantly refuse to as a demonstration of “faith.” I would not mince my words – that is not faith. That is foolishness. But the flip side – that is to think that we are in total control is also foolish. There are far too many things beyond my control, and i have learned to, borrowing Pauline’s way of using the word in her sermon last week, “faith.”

During my time serving as a chaplain in the hospital, I “faithed” when I was asked to go to the ICU, not knowing what I am required to do. I was on duty, and I was told earlier that homeless person was admitted through ER and was on life support, and it was likely that they would turn off the respirator later that evening. Evening came, and the staff nurse called me and told me they found her family, and asked me to be present. I didn’t know what to do – I was told her two daughters and her sister haven’t seen her for 15 years, and now they were here at the last moments of her life.

No amount of preparation could prepare me for this. There is no guidebook, cheatsheet, handbook that would help me. The only thing I could do is do my best, and pray that God guides me to support them through this very difficult situation. I “faithed.”

I believe that the serenity prayer written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs is very helpful about worrying.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

The prayer teaches us to discern between what we can do something about, and what we cannot do anything about. If we can do something about a situation, then the time and energy we spend on worrying takes time and energy away from doing. If we cannot do anything about it, then we need to move from worrying to serenity – accepting things we cannot change, accepting things we have little or no power over.

I have grown in that wisdom a lot through the years, and i am grateful. I would be a lot more high-strung, and probably stressed out and burnt out if I remained who i was in the past. I have learned in some way to move to serenity, understanding and trusting that God holds me, loves me, and cares about me, and I have learned to “faith.” In other words, I have learned to surrender. Not my will be done, but God’s will be done.

Worry, to me, is the opposite of faith. If there is something to do about a situation, then do your best about that situation. Act in faith that God will be with you. If there is nothing you can do about it, then seek the serenity to surrender and accept those situations.

All of us have worried at one time or another before, and just because Jesus said, “Do not worry” does not mean that we would stop worrying.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I talked about ordinary miracles in my last sermon. And I will tell you one ordinary miracle that all of you have experienced before. Something that I keep marvelling at because it is just like Jesus lecture to us “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will God not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Of course, it may be easy to see God’s presence in things outside of our lives like the lilies of the field, the grass of the field, the birds of the air. It may be difficult to see God’s presence in our lives. Just consider this ordinary miracle – each one of you is one in 40, 50 million. Consider your conception – you are the product of the fertilization of the egg in your mother by one in 40, 50 million sperm cells. Ordinary miracles like this – like how that one cell become two, become four, and how we were knitted in the womb – reminds me that God has been, and will be, always with me, in my birth, and in my life, and in my death, and beyond my death.

What most worries you? Is it something personal—something specific to your life? Your health? Your loved ones’ health? Your career? Your fianances?

Is there something you can do about it? Is there something you should do about it? Are you doing something about it?

Or is it perhaps something global, structural, over which you are most concerned? The economy? The environment?

Is there something you can do about it? Is there something you should do about it? Are you doing something about it?

Hold that worry in your open hand, and then hear Jesus asking you, “Why do you worry? Does not God care for the lilies? If God will take care of the lilies, won’t God also care for you?”

What do you feel when you hear Jesus’ questions? Are they rhetorical questions? Perhaps. If you dared, nonetheless, to reply to Jesus, what would you say?

Would you ask God, “What do you want me to do about this?”

I would invite you to consider Jesus saying to us “Do not worry.” (He says it at least 3 times in this passage! It must be important!) And I want you to consider what Jesus says at the end. ” But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

“God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
The courage to change the things we can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”