If ever there was a text for the world, today’s Gospel from Matthew would definitely merit consideration. Right off the bat Jesus tells those gathered with him, and us, not to worry about our life (Matt 6: 25). Now I don’t know about you, but the moment someone tells me not to worry about something, that is the very thing I am going to worry about. We can’t help it. Whether we care to admit it or not, we love to worry.
We love to worry about the weather, the traffic, paying bills. We love to worry about what to wear for dinner, the movies, a date, a gathering with friends and in the process, we will have changed outfits at least twice before settling on something.
Now because we love to worry, two consequences happen. The first is we lose track of the present. Ever noticed that? Think about it for a moment. We are constantly worried about some future crisis that hasn’t happened yet. In the process we lose track of what is happening today in this world, in this reality. Good planning is good, but it becomes a problem when it turns into an obsession. We lose touch with friends, family and commitments. We lose the thread and meaning of why we do what we do on any given day. We take people and circumstances for granted. Because we get so caught up in what we cannot control.
The second consequence of worrying too much is we lose focus on who’s we are. We forget that all things and all manner of thing comes from God and is in God’s hands. Today’s Gospel from Matthew is a stark reminder that everything we have and everything we are, is a gift from God. This is the essence of good stewardship, to remember that everything we have, from the clothes we wear, or not, to the cars we drive, the houses we live in, the fields, mountains, rivers and trees are created by and come from God. This is important to remember and understand, because a world without God and a world where it is up to others to sort out, isn’t much of a world. Because it is God’s world and we are God’s beloved people, we have the responsibility and privilege to look after and tend to God’s creation. That means we must pay attention to the decisions we make each and every day. Our daily lives, from the mundane to the profound, become ways in which we live out our faith in the world.
Today of all days is a good day to pause amid the worries of our life. Now do not worry about this; our worries of yesterday and today will still be with us on Tuesday so we can take the time today, this long weekend, to pause and consider, not the worries and strains of our life, but rather to correct the balance and remember what we are thankful for.
When we were living in South Africa, there was a priest, one of my father’s curates, who began to intentionally add petitions of thanksgiving in his prayer life. He had realized that his prayer life was dominated with worry, anxiety and concern. He would constantly bring before God the laundry list of complaint and issues that he wanted God to ‘fix’ and ‘solve’. Before long, he found that God had been reduced to his personal ‘Complaints Department.’ I wonder if this rings true for you as well. So often, despite every good intention we may have, we come before God with everything that is going wrong in our lives, we forget to mention the good and profound. The moments where we are speechless and spellbound somehow get lost in the shuffle.
While God is certainly interested in all our worries and concerns, God is also deeply interested in our greatest joys and passions. God yearns to hear about what feeds our motivation and provides us with energy and inspiration. God wants to hear about the abundance of our lives and all that life has to offer.
But God also wants to hear our Thanksgivings. God is interested in how we are thankful for not only the good that comes our way but also in our failures and when things don’t go according to plan. As we all know, it is through our failures that we learn so much and can be better prepared for the next challenge that life brings us.
The curate who began to add a petition of Thanksgiving to his daily prayer life found that his outlook on life began to change. Over time he noticed that he appreciated the people and relationships in his life more. He began to notice creation and the natural beauty more. Once taken for granted skylines and landscapes began to hold more meaning and were appreciated more. He became a happier, more grounded person.
So, amid the abundance of our lives, the good, the bad and all points in between, let us take a moment not just this weekend, but every day to bring before God in prayer at least one petition of thanksgiving and thank God for the beauty of creation and how we become spellbound in the presence of the Divine. Who knows, maybe just maybe this alone will begin to change how we interact and live in the world.