Scripture: Philippians 4:4-9 (10-13)
Jesus once said, “Do not worry about your life… Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life” Of course, the answer to that one is “nobody can”.
How can we possibly notworry?… Have you read the news lately? – climate change, mass shootings, wars, super-bugs, elections, racism, hate everywhere….and so much more?
Worrying is an attachment to scarcity. It’s about what we don’t have… we could worry about material things… we may be drowning in debt, we may worry about where we will get the money for the next car payment, we may worry about our appearance – about the extra weight we planned to lose before last summer that still lingers on our midline. Each of these things represent where we don’t have enough… enough money, enough self-control, enough time, enough, enough, enough…
Sometimes we are worried about more abstract things… we worry about not feeling safe, we worry that we can’t trust our partners, we worry that what people will think of us… each of these things still represent something we feel we lack…not safe enough, not faithful enough, not confident enough, not good enough.
Jesus taught us to stop worrying about such things. We want to say, “But, Jesus, it’s not that easy…”. Here’s the thing… Jesus never said it was easy.
Jesus calls us to seek new ways to be in the world that is set up to make us worry. Consumerism counts on us worrying – because then maybe there is an easy way out – there is something I can buy so that I have enough, or I feel like enough. The letter from Paul today suggests that there is another way.
Listen: “6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Thanksgiving! We are called to come before God with humble hearts and ask for the help we need and be thankful!?
What Jesus and Paul are selling isn’t easy. Following Christ is not easy. Following Jesus is hard work. Working on the broken parts of our relationship with God and the people we love is hard work. Creating a discipline (which is rooted in the same word as disciple) of a dedicated prayer life is hard work. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It is easier to worry. It is easier to complain. It is easier to not change. “Do not worry” is a call to change.
How many of you practice gratitude? Do you take time each day to either write down or think about something you are grateful for? It is kind of a catch phrase these days, but with good reason. The world needs more love than worry right now and love begins with gratitude.
Gratitude is a practice that requires us to choose something new –to see value in all things. It requires us to see what we gain, not what we lose – to see what we have, not what we lack. It is a complete shift of focus. From scarcity to abundance.
The practice of offering thanksgiving to God is an expression of this gratitude. The 13thcentury mystic Meister Eckhart said “if the only prayer you ever said was thank you, that would be enough.”Even our prayers for help change when we are living with an attitude of gratitude.
We need less when we realize how much we really have. Have you ever noticed that so often those that have the least appreciate the most?
You might think that all of this is easy for me to say. I want to share with you that it isn’t. I am also a person who lives with mental illness. I have lived with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD for 19 years. The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that 1 in 5 Canadians are living, right now, with a mental health problem or illness.
I am also a person who lives with Fibromyalgia – simply put – it is a condition that manifests as widespread pain in my bones and muscles. It effects my sleep, memory, and definitely my mood! Mental illness and chronic pain and fatigue mean that life is just harder sometimes. I don’t tell you these things so you will feel sorry for me, just like Paul didn’t tell the Philippians about his struggles so they would feel sorry for him. I tell you these things because, if the statistics are right, then there are a few of you this morning that struggle with me. You are not alone. Each of us in this room struggles with something because we are human.
My favourite hymns says, “Spirit, open my heart, to the joy and pain of living…” Who in their right mind prays for the Spirit to open them to PAIN? But, here is the thing about the practice of gratitude – it means that you appreciate living… you search for the value in each moment, in each person, in each experience – good or bad.
I believe this is a way to heal brokenness. But, like any kind of healing, it isn’t easy. If any of you have had to recover from orthopaedic surgery for example, you know… healing is sometimes painful. Change is sometimes painful… at the very least it is hard work. But I would suggest that healing is always worth it.
I am grateful for mental illness and chronic pain & fatigue because it has made me a more compassionate and patient person. And please don’t get it twisted, I certainly do not believe that God sent these things to me to teach me lessons! But, with all that I am, I believe that God walks beside me as I learn the lessons from this life I am living.
The practice of gratitude is making a choice to not worry. We all have many reasons to worry. Nobody is denying that, not me, not Paul and not Jesus. The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. God is with us, but we are also with each other– God made us to help each other. Jesus travelled with his followers and his disciples and they helped him. Paul and Timothy travelled together and they helped one another… Each of us is on this journey and we are all travelling with others. Take a minute… look around you. These are your people – this is your community of faith. Can you take a minute and say to the people around you, “I am grateful for you.” Go ahead….
…Shifting from the attitude of scarcity where worry rules our thoughts to an attitude of abundance where thankfulness rules our hearts ispossible and it starts with two little words… “Thank you” said over and over again –
Nothing is impossible with God.
May it be so. Amen.