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Lent week 4 - March 14, 2021

Matthew 6:16-34As I read through this passage, I became increasingly aware that there is SO MUCH MEAT in the sermon on the mount! Amy Jill Levine breaks it up into 6 chapters and she points to common themes, but there are riches in each little bit…enough that we could do a deep dive and spend a couple of months studying just the sermon on the mount! We won’t be doing that, but maybe hear that as an invitation to spend some Bible study time on your own reading and examining the smaller verses.

Like the others, today’s section has a lot to it. And so I tried to look for the core message. What was Jesus really driving at? What did he want

the disciples to know? To hear? To understand?

I think the core piece this week is trust. Jesus wanted the disciples to trust him. Jenny focused on the part of the passage about worry. Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. But a lack of worry doesn’t come naturally. A lack of worry comes when there is an abundance of trust. The disciples would be able to lay aside their worry if they trusted Jesus and trusted God.

And I believe that’s true for us as well. We can lay aside our worry only when there is an abundance of trust. And by trust, I mean a sense of security, a feeling of safety, a feeling of peace.

I have sort of a crazy example but bear with me. When I was serving my first church, I was living in an apartment and could only have a small dog. My mom looked and looked and finally found a little king Charles cavalier named Taylor. {INSERT PIC} She was about 25 pounds, sweet as could be, deaf as a post, and really clingy. It’s a trait of the breed, they are really loyal to one person and they are known as Velcro dogs. I was young and single and had to drive a good bit, so I often took Taylor with me. Because she was deaf, she tended to just lie down next to me and fall asleep—unbothered by people coming and going, or activity in the room. She was wonderful and trusted me. If I got up and went to another room, she started to worry. She looked for me. She was always anxious to spot me. Because it wasn’t the spaces we were in that made her feel safe. It was me. Without me, she worried. And when I had to leave her alone in the apartment she would scratch at the door—a lot…even though it was her home, it was her safe place, but without that person of assurance, she would stress out.

Now, when I was moved to my second church, it happened to be that my brother was taking a new appointment that year too and they were expecting a baby and weren’t prepared to keep his labrador he had, so he offered her to me. I gladly took Dagny and moved both dogs into my new home. Now, here’s the curious thing, when I left Taylor home alone with Dagny, she didn’t scratch at the door. Dagny became another sign of assurance. Taylor wasn’t worried. It was almost like Taylor thought “Well, Debbie might just abandon me, but surely she wouldn’t abandon you, so if you’re here, I’m good.”

The short of it is, Taylor couldn’t let go of her worry without something (or someone) she could trust.

I think we all need that. If we want to let go of our fear or anxiety, to let go of our worry, we need to know we will be safe, that things will be ok. For some of us, that comes from our location—the places that have always signified safety—that might be home, or school, or somewhere in nature. For some of us it’s an object—right? It’s why kids often have a lovey—a favorite stuffy or blanket that they always keep with them. It’s the marker of trust. It’s the bearer of peace. For some of us, it’s a person—we can go anywhere or try anything if someone we trust is leading us.

Now, if we go back to our passage. Jesus says a lot of particular things here. But ultimately, he’s talking about trust. Remember his audience is the disciples. Yes, there are more people around listening, but specifically, Jesus is talking to his disciples. They are just beginning their journey together. He’s just beginning his ministry. He’s called them away from their homes, away from the work they knew, away from their family and friends to do something new. If we put ourselves in their shoes, I bet we could start to feel their anxiety—all of their unanswered questions. What will we eat? And where will we sleep? And what if we get sick or injured? What will we wear? What if someone robs us? What if we get lost or separated? Right? All of these worries mounting up inside them, before they’ve even been asked to go anywhere.

These are normal things to think about, normal things to worry about and the disciples are starting to stress. And so Jesus offers these reassurances. God has you. Look around, God cares for the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field, and even the grass—they matter to God. And if all those things matter to God, don’t you think you matter too? Don’t worry about packing your bags and bringing everything with you. Don’t focus on the stuff—stuff can’t save you. Focus on me—focus on Jesus. Know that I am here and I am with you and I’ve got you.

I have to admit, as I worked on this passage, I really struggled with what even mattered—what did we need to hear? What was Jesus trying to convey to us? And then this week, I heard a lot about worries, and fears, and anxiety. We have a whole slew of unanswered questions. What are we going to do? Who is going to be sent? What about this and what about that? All normal and natural and healthy things to think about. And Jesus hears us. And Jesus offers to us some reassurances. To you and me. After all, we can all use a little more trust and a little less worry right now.

So let’s listen to Jesus. God has you. Look around, God cares for the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field, and even the grass—they matter to God. And if all those things matter to God, don’t you think you matter too? Don’t worry about all the things we don’t yet know. We’ll cross each bridge when we get to it. For now, focus on me—focus on Jesus. Know that he’s here and he’s with us and he’s got it.

And if we start to panic a little. If we feel like Taylor—stressed out that we’re all alone, look for your Dagny—look for the one who offers reassurance. Surely God wouldn’t leave us both alone? Let alone Barb or Dan, Connie, or Jenny, Lorie, Dick, or Terry, Cordelia, or Sammy, Sophie, or Eric, Damien, or Caitlyn. God is here, God is with us—all of us…and God has us.

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