The Advantages of Worrying

Luke 12:29-40

The old story goes like this. A husband knew every year on the family’s way to their vacation spot, just as they would get about eighty miles out of town, his wife would cry out, “Oh, no! I’m sure I left the iron on.” Each year they would return home only to find it unplugged. One year, however, was different. The man had anticipated what was coming. When his wife gasped, “We must go back, I just know I left the iron on,” he stopped the car, reached under his seat, and handed his wife the iron.

A nervous young preacher began her sermon. Ten minutes into it, her mind went blank. She then remembered some advice her seminary professor had passed on for a situation like this – repeat your last point. The repetition often gets your mind back on track. “Behold, I come quickly,” she said. Nothing. She tried again, “Behold, I come quickly!” Still her mind was blank. With her worry and uneasiness rising, she tried once more, with so much oomph that she tripped and fell off the platform into the lap of a little old lady in the front pew. Picking herself up, she apologized profusely. The woman replied, “No, it was my fault. You told me three times you were coming. I should have gotten out of the way.”

A lawyer parked his brand-new Lexus on the street in front of the office. The lawyer had always been leery of parking on the street, never knowing what might happen, but he wanted to show off the car to his colleagues. Just as he got out, a truck sideswiped the car, tearing off the driver’s door. The lawyer immediately dialed 911, and within minutes a police officer arrived. The lawyer started shouting hysterically. “My new Lexus!” “I can’t believe how materialistic you lawyers are,” the cop said in disgust. “Good grief man, don’t you realize that your left arm is missing? It got ripped off when the truck hit you.” The lawyer then screamed, “My Rolex!”

“Do not keep striving for what you’re to eat and what you’re to drink, and do not keep worrying,” Jesus said. “Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus is teaching his disciples in these pages of the gospel of Luke. He’s teaching us as well. The word worrying, or to worry, is defined on as to torment with cares and anxieties. That leads me to consider if there are any advantages to worrying. Such advantages could be, first, to keep that concern ever before us, not to address the concern but to permit it to torment us. There could be an advantage in focusing on what cannot be accomplished or corrected or addressed. We, then, cast a gaze toward how things will be when the negative outcome is fulfilled. All of this fuels pessimism, skepticism and fear. A so called realistic prospective of life that foresees the possibility of the negative occurring does not appear to be taken into account by our Lord in these same pages. In fact, in verse 28, Jesus said the Father dresses the grass of the field in beauty and so much more will he dress us, “You of little faith.” Strive for avoiding the unknown? Strive for the perfect at every instance? Strive for the new and fancy? “Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

In the pioneer days of aviation, a pilot was making a flight around the world. After the pilot left his last landing field and was airborne for two hours, he began to hear a noise in the plane. He recognized it as a gnawing of a rat. He realized that while his plane was on the ground a rat had gotten in. For all he knew the rat could be gnawing through a vital cable, damaging the plane and threatening the life of the pilot. It was a very serious situation. He was both concerned and anxious. At first the pilot didn’t know what to do. It was two hours back to the air strip from where he took off and two hours to the next landing field. The pilot then remembered the rat was a rodent that was not made for heights. It was made for the ground and under the earth. The pilot then began to ascend. The plane went up a thousand feet, then two thousand until the plane was more than twenty thousand feet up. The gnawing ceased. The rat was dead. It couldn’t survive in the atmosphere the plane reached. When the pilot landed the plane safely at the next airfield he found the dead rat. Clovis Chappell wrote in his book, Questions Jesus Asked, “Worry is a rodent. It cannot live in the secret place of the Most High. It cannot breathe in the atmosphere made vital by prayer and familiarity with scripture. Worry dies when we ascend to the Lord through prayer.”

Now then, worry has been addressed. So, disciples, be dressed for action and ready. If our apprehensions, fears and troubling uncertainties are addressed by living our lives as citizens of a kingdom where our God of truth and love, grace and mercy embraces us as his forgiven and valued children, we will live as his children of great faith. So, disciples, be dressed for action. There were parents of two sons, one was an incurable optimist and the other was an incorrigible pessimist. One Christmas, their parents tried to exercise some correctives on these extreme attitudes by giving them gifts that might bring about some behavioral changes. For the pessimistic son, they got him gifts that anticipated his every wish and hope. He opened the first gift and found the top-of-the-line electric train set. He lamented that it was bound to get broken. The next gift was a terrific stereo system. He groaned that he didn’t have any CDs to play on it. So, it went on all Christmas morning. His optimistic brother, who received only one gift, opened the wrapping and found a bag of horse manure. He jumped up and down for joy. When his parents wanted to know what he was so happy about, he exclaimed, “Do you see what I got? Do you see what I got? There’s got to be a pony around here somewhere.”

Dressed for action? Ever ready to share hope and joy to the ones we encounter discouraged and sad. There is a great God we know who abounds in steadfast love and mercy. Dressed for action? Ever ready to bless and share in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Dressed for action? Ever ready to share in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and refreshing and newness of life to those we encounter. Pessimism doesn’t characterize the life of a disciple. The optimism found in the life of a child of God discourages worry and inspires the growth of faith and love. Jesus is teaching his disciples in these pages of the gospel of Luke. He’s teaching us as well.

(Preached at St Mark UMC in Anniston, SL, August 7, 2022)

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