Dont' Worry, Be Happy

 

 

 

A new thing happened in my household, a first time event: my family bought a television.

        Now we’ve had tvs over the years, hand me down sets as big a bureau, but never cable,

        so we’ve never been much of a television watching family.

If I wanted to see the news instead of hearing it or reading about it, I went to the gym.

 

But now I have a view of the world from inside my house.

        Stories that 30 years ago we would have read about in the paper a day later

        we now see unfolding in real time before our eyes.

                For example, last week I watched events unfold in San Bernardino.

                I could see the helicopter footage of the house to house search for the perpetrators.

        And not only that, there is a relentlessness of the news cycle.

For days we heard about every angle of motive and background on the killers;

we heard the stories of the slain; we heard the reactions of the leaders,

and it brought this horrible situation to our attention over and over.

 

Whenever there is a violent act like the one in San Bernardino, I have the same reaction:

        first shock, then anger that these things happen and a vain attempt to DO something about it,

        usually a knee jerk reaction that isn’t well thought out.

                But underneath all of this emotion is a deeper one: the cold fingers of fear.

        As my brother in law, who works a block from the center where San Bernardino shootings occurred, said:

 “We live under the illusion of safety, of normalcy,”  he said.  “The veneer is thin-- too thin.”

That veneer can be puncture at any time, and it makes us anxious.

 

For some, anxiety is clinical condition that needs to be treated with medication;

        for others, it is a habit of the mind that needs redirection.

                The penchant for extrapolating into the future every possible bad outcome—

                        most of which will never happen—can paralyze us.

                It can shape our perception of reality, as if all the world were a threat.

 

“Do not worry about anything,” St. Paul writes in our second lesson.

        It’s hard for us not to hear this phrase in a Pollyanna fashion;

                it’s like Pumba and Timon singing ‘Hakuna Matata’ in the Lion King,

                or Bobby McFerrin’s song that recently got a remake “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

                        It’s all too simplistic.

                        After all, our minds are wired for anxiety.

                As human beings we evolved to be able to envision worst case scenarios--

                a handy trait, if you need to plan ahead to outsmart your prey.

        Frederick Buechner, writer and theologian, said,

        “Anxiety is like telling woman with a bad head cold not to sneeze.”

Telling someone not to worry is just about as effective.

 

St. Paul’s words, however, are not Pollyanna.

        Paul was writing from the squalor of a Roman prison.

                He was separated from his family and friends, contending with rats and terrible food,

                hearing news of Christians being targeted and even killed.

        In the end, Paul himself was executed by the Romans, from that very prison.

His words, “don’t worry about it,” come from a very different place than the false veneer of cheerfulness.

 

How can Paul say, “Don’t worry about anything,” when his own death lay just around the corner?

I think it is instructive to notice what Paul does not say in this passage.

        He does not say that the worst will not happen.

                He does not try to minimize or explain away the dangers or trials of the present moment,

                as if this were God’s plan or judgment or testing of moral fiber.

        He simply tells the Philippians to pray.

        “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

        let your requests be made known to God.”

Stay connected to the source, Paul says.

Keep in touch with the One who transcends the circumstances of our lives,

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Prayer does make a difference.

        It begins to rewire the brain for trust, rather than anxiety.

                Recently I have been corresponding about this passage with Damian, who is on our prayer list.

                        You might remember him from two winters ago,

                        worshipping with his mom Lanelle on crutches.

                You see, Damian was driving under the influence, and he got into a terrible car accident

        which not only injured him, but ended up killing two people in the other car.

Now Damian is in jail, working his way through the court dates which decide his future.

 

I sent him this passage because I figured facing the judge would be pretty scary.

        Damian took seriously St Paul’s advice to pray, and found that first thing

                that he had to do was to look deeply into himself to identify the source of his anxiety.                  

                        Prayer allowed him to take the time to be quiet and introspective,

                        to open himself to God.

                He wrote, ‘I imagined God sitting on his cloud, like, “Dude, you’re asking me for help

                but how can I do anything if you’re not even sure what’s making you feel like that?”’

Prayer allows for the first step of God’s action to occur:

to see the situation as it is, neither all cleaned up, nor turned into a worst case scenario.

 

 

 

For Damian, the situation was pretty grim.

        He had to face not only the judge, but also the family who lost two members

        due to his careless acts.

                        He really couldn’t rely on any way to make it up to the family

                        or the fact that he really is a great person when he is sober

                he had to face the truth of what he had done, and it was terrifying.

        But Damian found through prayer he could do one thing:

        He could envision God there in the courtroom with him.

In his mind’s eye, he saw not only the terrible weight of his deeds

but also his family, his pastor, and the peace that surpasses all understanding to guard him

and keep him no matter what.

 

We live in troubled times.

        But we have a choice whether to live in anxiety or trust.

                It gets down to that.

                        Prayer reminds us of the things God has already done in our lives for our good

                        it reminds us of God’s faithfulness

                Prayer re-trains our mind to focus not on the things that are wrong with us and the world,

                but on the things that are good and honorable and just—the places where God is at work.

        And most of all, Prayer points us into the future in hope

        so that no matter our circumstances, in safety or in dire straights, in plenty or in want,

we have the assurance that God is there with us.

God’s peace is for us.

Jesus Christ has gone before us, and we are never alone.

 

We have our big TVs—We are not likely to give them up.

        But with or without the media, we have a daily choice: to live in anxiety or hope.

                Through Christ, through prayer, with can know peace

        We can let it fill us and change us

And as it changes us, it flows out to others,

changing the world.

 

Children’s sermon

cleaning out closet--three coats

John Baptist- two coats give one away

Should I follow his advice?

Yes?  why?

No? why?

seemingly easy thing to do; harder in practice—give away half your stuff!

John the Baptist still controversial

we have a lot that stands in the way of C

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