Weekly Bible Devotional
“The World Ahead: Purpose”
Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 6:25-34
“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 not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 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? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Notes on the Text:
We begin this week a new sermons series called, “The World Ahead.” The invitation is to look at the dramatic change in our world and how we can find our way into the future through God’s grace. We live in a time of great uncertainty and lack of control. Yet, this time is also giving us the opportunity to look deeper into the meaning of life and our purpose for being here. The world before the pandemic lured us into believing that control, esteem, and power are the ways to be happy and fulfilled in life. We learn from an early age that control, power, and esteem are things to pursue, even if they came at the cost of love and compassion. As these illusions came into question with the pandemic, we are looking more honestly at what truly matters in life.
Our scripture for this Sunday gives us guidance and inspiration about the power of focusing on the grace of God. It reminds us that when we learn to focus on God’s purposes, everything else falls into place. Jesus’ invitation to his disciples is to live a life of focusing on God’s vision and will for the world.
Worry and fear are normal human reactions to life’s challenges. In the face of a cancer diagnosis, loss of employment, or the possibility of a nuclear attack, we can’t just pretend that everything is okay. Concern in such cases is completely justified and needed so as to address the problem at hand. The problem comes for us when worry and fear motivate our actions and lead to seek control instead of learning to navigate our way through uncertainty with faith and reliance on God. To make things worse, worry and fear are often illogical so no matter how much you tell yourself not to worry or be afraid, it seems that you are helpless in the face of such strong emotions. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are operating out of our fears and worries because we have justified our actions with logical explanations that often deceive us. We may even wonder why seeking to regain control is unhealthy for us.
Jesus’ statement about worry comes not as an invitation to live a carefree life without any responsibilities or control. In fact, the opposite is true. In the previous sections of the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus issuing several challenges to responsibility and to living according to the ways of God’s Spirit in love, justice and peace. His vision is for that of the Kingdom of God as alternative to the Kingdoms of the world. The values of the Kingdom of God challenge us to greater responsibility in life but with God as the one directing us.
In this context we understand the words of Jesus about worry not as a call to irresponsibility but an invitation to live a life that is centered on God’s love and work in the world. Anxiety about money and success in life can be a major distraction for us from that work. This is not about forgetting about the basic necessities of life and health. It is about letting God’s mission be the center of our lives. When we are able to let go and to trust God, we are able to focus on our life’s work for the Kingdom of God’s love. When we focus on the kingdom of God, control does not become our tool for finding our way through uncertainty. Instead, we are able to focus on our purpose through faith.
Unhealthy worry often traps us in what we try to conquer and control. The way of Jesus offers us an alternative that is better not just for us, but for all who are around us. Instead of trying to control the negative things that worry us, we are invited to become mindful of God’s purposes for us in and through our hardships and uncertainties.
The teachings of Jesus resonate with us because deep down in our hearts, we know that they are true. Yet, when the fears and anxieties of a world arise, we forget to live by the wisdom of Jesus. That is where a daily practice of stillness and reflection comes in. We cannot sustain ourselves in our focus on the kingdom of God without the help of God and a group of people who are committed to the same purpose. Sooner or later, the anxiety of the world takes a hold of us and knocks us off the course of love and faith.
Prayer for One Who Feels Lost by Joyce Rupp:
why do I keep fighting you off?
One part of me wants you desperately,
another part of me unknowingly
pushes you back and runs away.
What is there in me that
so contradicts my desire for you?
These transition days, these passage ways,
are calling me to let go of old securities,
to give myself over into your hands.
Like Jesus who struggled with the pain
I, too, fight the “let it all be done.”
Loneliness, lostness, non-belonging,
all these hurts strike out at me,
leaving me pained with this present goodbye.
I want to be more but I fight the growing.
I want to be new but I hang unto the old.
I want to live but I won’t face the dying.
I want to be whole but cannot bear
to gather up the pieces into one.
Is it that I refuse to be out of control,
to let the tears take their humbling journey,
to allow my spirit to feel its depression,
to stay with the insecurity of “no home”?
Now is the time. You call to me,
begging me to let you have my life,
inviting me to taste the darkness
so I can be filled with the light,
allowing me to lose my direction
so that I will find my way home to you.