Matthew 6:25-33 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is notlife more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will God not much more clothe you--you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Don't worry- be happy! That's the crux of the passage, isn't it? Put your faith in God, and God will take care of it. Don't worry. No really- don't worry.
All week I've been thinking about how many times we've said this to one another over the past year. Well, actually the phrase we used was "don't worry, it's only for a year..."
It's almost one year ago that we decided as a church to not worry about doing anything new- not worry about where money would come from- not worry about how many people we may or may not attract to our church, or what kind of an impact we were having out there- we stopped writing bylaws and selling assets- pulled back from community groups that spread us too thin and put our resources of time and energy into this community. We were a community of faith who was, understandably, concerned about our future, challenged by changes, and cautious about security and finance. It's not that things were bad- not by any means- everyone had worked tirelessly for and on behalf of this community of faith. FBCM means the world to us, and insuring its vibrancy and vitality, and securing its future is paramount in the hearts of our people.
But the pace was killing us. Though lives were being transformed, and the church was thriving, many were exhausted, stressed out, and burned out existing in a perpetual state of anxiety, 'keeping the church afloat.'
So we took a break. One full year of rest. One full year of not worrying about anything except getting to know one another as disciples. One full year of bumping into each other and laughing and growing together in Christ; focused on nothing but putting God and relationships first, and letting everything else fall into place.
If you are a visitor today and you are thinking, 'that sounds wonderful,' you are correct... it was.
Because after a year, we know one another better. We've worked the fields of relationship building, planted seeds of friendship, and watched love and trust grow and bloom in our backyard. We hosed down the lawn furniture and dusted off the croquet set so we could talk and play together- fired up the grill for picnics and parties and worshiped the God of provision who graciously brought us together.
Our vision has not changed. We are a diverse, genuinely inclusive community of faith striving to live out God love, justice, and compassion through the teachings of Christ. Our motto hasn’t changed: “God loves you just the way you are, no matter what.” All are welcome. But through this year of hanging out in our backyard, we got to know whom God has brought through the gate, or even, in some cases, who God snuck over the back fence. Here’s why… You see- there is much ministry to do- out there. The world needs healing, and nurture, and love- God calls us to be agents of Peace, but as we move out into that world bringing the good news of God's love and mercy and grace... but we don't go alone. Just as the disciples were sent in groups, we go out to do ministry with those God has placed in community with us- knowing and trusting each other is key to working together.
So, this year, when challenges arose, which, they always do- or when we noticed some things falling through the cracks, which always happens, or circumstances came up that caused us to want to exert 'control' over a situation- we would remind each other- 'it's ok, don't worry, it's only for a year." Today, on harvest Sunday, we celebrate the bounty of our backyard- and there is no better time to pause, as we move into the advent season of preparation, on the gifts God has given us. But this year also sums up pretty well the sentiments of Jesus in that passage. Once we stopped worrying about how and what and who- and just noticed the beauty of the lilies next to us- stopped worrying about where 'clothing and food' would come from and let God care for the sparrows...
For goodness sake, look what God has done in one year of not worrying. Our food pantry has not only grown but is flourishing. We are able, through God's grace, to provide for more people than ever before. Where a year ago we had an empty lot on the side of the church, there is now a beautiful garden, open for meditation, reflection, prayer, and serves as a gathering space for the community. Worries about security? We have a brand new system that keeps our building and grounds monitored so the people coming here will feel safe. One year ago we were so worried about money- but because of people listening to the Spirit and continuing to financially support this ministry in big ways, we’ve been able to put together a budget for next year that speaks to a future of vibrant ministry A year ago we were concerned about keeping our website current. God sent an IT person who volunteered on his first or second week to help. One year ago no one ever heard of “PRISM” a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth- but yet God surprised us with brand new thing. One year ago we had no liturgical art ministry- and now the Spirit speaks to us weekly through these beautiful displays. In one year, our Q-Munity has grown to a size where now the challenge is fitting everyone into the same space! One year ago our music program looked very different- amen? Look what God has done! Even today, 2 more baptisms, 7 more new members, and, our backyard bounty is indeed one of abundance! My goodness if you can’t see the HolySpirit at work in this place… And I truly believe its because we stopped focusing on trying to control everything- stopped worrying about what we didn’t have and started giving thanks for the blessings we do! They say the secret to having it all, is believing you already do. There is truth in that. FBCM_ we have been blessed beyond what we can think of imagine. And I believe with my whole heart, that this is just the beginning of what God wants to do in this place and through each of you.
Don't worry- says Jesus. God knows exactly what you need. Strive for the kin-dom of God. And all these things will be given unto you...
OK pastor, sure, it worked for our church- but what about my personal life? I still worry all the time- about a hundred things! I'm just not sure how to bring that to my life outside my community of faith. Guess what my friends... there is no life where any of us are without our community of faith. And I don’t care if you’ve been here for 60 years of 60 minutes- there is a place for you of love and support and if you desire- to connect to others also on a journey. Did you hear the words of covenant we just said to each other when we received new members? We are continually nurturing each other, building relationships, encouraging one another on this shared journey of discipleship. Worry? No. Let’s continue to let God provide and care for us.