How do you know it’s going to be a rotten day? You look out your window and see the ‘60 minutes’ crew unloading in front of your house. You wake up to find your braces are locked together. When you leave the house, your wife says, “Have a good day, Bill.” Your name is George. You turn on the TV to discover that the news is showing emergency routes out of the city. And my favorite: Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway.
The likelihood of these happening is pretty remote—but there’s still a lot to worry about in life. Will this month’s income last me the whole month? There’s a rattling noise in my car and I can’t afford to get it checked out. I have a lump in my breast but no health insurance. I’m 15 and just discovered I’m pregnant. I’m 15 and just discovered my girlfriend is pregnant. I’m gay and afraid to tell my family. I was sexually assaulted and am ashamed that it might have been partly my fault, and no one will take me seriously. I’ve left my country and family behind in a sea of violence and have no safe place to go. My parent beats me but I have to stay to keep my younger siblings safe. I’m afraid to go outside because I never know when someone might come at me with a weapon.
There is still a lot to worry about in life. There is still a lot of injustice in this world that should make us uncomfortable, if not angry. There is reason for many to live in a state of paranoia. There are legitimate cases of PTSD in which, though the immediate danger is gone, the emotional scars are still raw.
So, I want to be very clear about this from the start: Jesus isn’t telling us that concern for safety and justice aren’t important, and that if we just take a deep breath and trust in God, everything will turn out okay.
In fact, our passage today starts with the word, “Therefore.” ‘Therefore’ means that something came before the passage, and he is referring to that something as he continues to make his case. In this case, the “Therefore” refers to the verse just before this one.
Jesus says, “No one can be a slave to two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
He’s talking about our hearts—where are our hearts? Are they devoted to the stuff of this world—to the things we acquire, the clothes we wear, the foods we eat, the fancy wines? Are we a slave to how others see us? Or are we devoted only to what God sees in us? A great example of this transition in life is St. Francis of Assisi.
Giovanni di Bernadone was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy to a wealthy silk merchant. Giovanni, or Francesco as his Father nicknamed him, lived into his wealth. He spent money lavishly, wearing rich robes and drinking expensive wine. In 1202, he joined the military and was soon taken prisoner, spending a year as a captive. After an illness and a vision, he lost his taste for the lavish lifestyle. But he didn’t turn his life around right then and there. He struggled with what it meant to follow Jesus. He struggled with how to live this wealthy life at the same time. He struggled with his family’s expectations. He lived in exile, praying and asking God what the purpose of his life was.
His father turned Giovanni away and disinherited him, completely. He became a beggar, begging mostly for stones with which to rebuild chapels in the area. Passages such as the one we heard today influenced him in his direction in life. And as people saw his simple lifestyle, they were drawn to him. He started a new religious order—the Franciscan Order, also known as the ‘lesser brothers.’ He started an order for women, and later an order for laity who just wanted to live a simple lifestyle but didn’t want to withdraw from the world.
Francis strove to make peace with the Muslims in the Holy Land during the Crusades. He is known for his poverty and desire to give to the land rather than take from it. He is often seen depicted with animals because of his deep compassion for God’s creation. He saw all created things as his brothers and sisters, and he believed that all creatures praise God—a major theme in the Psalms.
One of the legends of St. Francis was that of the wolf who terrified the city of Gubbio. The wolf ate humans and animals, and the people feared the animal. So Francis went into the woods to confront the wolf. When he reached the animal, he made the sign of the cross and called to the wolf to come to him. The wolf came and lay down at his feet. Francis chastised the wolf for his terrorizing, but he recognized that the wolf was merely hungry. So, he brought the wolf into the town and made a pact between the people and the wolf. The people were to feed the wolf, and the wolf was not to harm the people or animals anymore.
In 1990, on the World Day of Peace, Pope John Paul II said of St. Francis, “The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all people.”
“Do not worry,” Jesus says. Do not worry because your life has been claimed in service to God. You need not be a slave to the demands of this world—to working 80 hrs/week so that you don’t lose your job; to getting your kids into the best school; to making the team at all costs; to getting the house you always dreamed of; to looking the part of the role you play; to being intimidating in order to limit abuse; to acting out so no one knows how scared you really are. You need not be a slave to the things in this world that do not bring you life and love.
Do not worry about your life. Do not worry about who is currently popular, about which teams are winning or losing, about how much you weigh or what others think of you. Do no worry about who is gay, who is trans, who is straight. Do not worry about having girls in boy scouts or those who don’t believe in Jesus. Do not worry about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Do not worry about the mistakes you made yesterday.
Set your mind and heart on Christ. For it is in Christ that we are made children of God. It is in Christ which we find our value and the value of each and every person around us. It is in Christ that we live, and it is in Christ that we die. So, may our worries or concerns be those of Christ—concern for the poor, concern for the abused, concern for the sick, concern for the outsiders, concern for the oppressed, concern for the bullied and shamed.
And may God give us that which we need—our daily bread, as we pray. Like Isaiah says, we can come to God and receive our daily bread, without cost, without effort, without debt. We can come and receive what God so willingly has offered—courage to speak truth against power, confidence in our gifts and abilities, forgiveness for the things we’ve done and left undone, and hope for the future.
We can come to God with those requests because we know that God loves us—as much and more than the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. And just think, if we actually loved ourselves and each other as much as God loves us, we would take care of one another rather than hurt each other. We would care for the earth like St. Francis. We would work together to provide food for the hungry in ways that are sustainable. We would strive for justice and peace for the sake of those who live tenuous lives at the whims of others. We would be the co-creators God made us to be…and even the most legitimate of worries would no longer weigh on God’s beautiful creation.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church