This is a sermon Dad gave on anxiety. It speaks to me because like him, I am very much an anxious person! He struggled with anxiety a LOT, which is probably why he pondered its proper place.

Isaiah 49:8-16a
Matthew 6:24-34
(Dated 2/26/2011)

This morning I want to talk about anxiety!!
Jesus “put it on the table” as he
preached his Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not be
anxious about your life... and
which of you by being anxious,
can add one cubit to his span of
life? ...Consider the lilies of the
field, they neither toil nor spin..”
We all know the passage so very well.
And we are all acquainted with that
upon which it focuses:
and that familiar “up-tight” feeling!

Living in the United States right now, and especially in this snow-beaten part of New England, is to know well the signs and indicators of anxiety and fearfulness that are all about us --

a growing national deficit,
lingering high unemployment,
budget cut-backs,
and the list goes on!

Anxious times and anxious people are clearly found throughout our world, and
throughout our scriptures, as well.

Remember the story of Jesus and his disciples on the Sea of Galilee when a storm began to blow in upon them?

The account is found in all three of the
synoptic gospels.

Jesus, who had fallen asleep, is rudely awakened by his disciples when the strong winds begin to blow, and he responds by questioning his obsessing disciples:

“Why are you afraid?
Have you no faith?” -- Mark 4:40

Most people think that the opposite of faith is doubt!
…but Jesus indicates otherwise--
he suggests that the opposite of
faith is not doubt,

And this account of Jesus with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee is loaded with anxiety!! -- Matthew 8:23-27

Now, some anxiety (or fearfulness) is good --
it’s healthy, and normal,
and an important emotion that
we all inevitably experience.

Anxiety keeps me from stepping out on to the street without looking both ways!
Anxiety keeps me from crossing a
double yellow line while driving!

Some anxieties are good -- normal -- healthy!
But some anxieties are NOT!!
These are the anxieties that are
destructive and damaging --
capable of blinding a person’s mind,
of poisoning one’s outlook
and perspective.

Howard Thurman, a noted Afro-American scholar who taught for many years at Boston University, published a book of meditations that he entitled "Deep Is the Hunger."
Included in his book is this wonderful
verse that has stuck with me over the years:
“The worry cow
would have lasted ‘til now
if she hadn’t lost her
But she thought her hay
wouldn’t last all day
so she “moo”ed herself to

It seems to me that it was this kind of worry and anxiety that Jesus was ever concerned about,
when he was preaching his Sermon on
the Mount, and
on that evening upon that raging
Sea of Galilee with his disciples!

If Jesus had read Howard Thurman, after being rudely awakened on the lake that evening, he may have said to his disciples:
“Don’t moo yourselves to death,
be not anxious,
but learn the art of adjustment to
the various facts, forces and
realities that make up life!!”

Life is full of un-controllables --
things we can’t change --
so we need to be alert to what they are,
and accept them,
or else we “moo” ourselves into a state
of anxiety,
and apprehension,
and, perhaps, even uselessness!

I like Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. Schulz once published a little paperback entitled Two By Fours that had Charlie and Schroeder sitting next to each other in a Sunday school classroom. Charlie is passively cutting away on a piece of construction paper with a pair of scissors, when Schroeder, very anxiously, turns to Charlie and nervously comments:

“The first thing I noticed when I walked in here this morning was a First-Aid Kit -- and that sort of
shook me up!!

How often it is that we allow ourselves to embrace that same kind of thinking!!
We encounter or notice something that
reminds us of an element in life over
which we have no control,
and so we start to worry about it!
And in the midst of our worry,
we become useless to participate or engage in
anything constructive!

I have always appreciated the familiar and very revealing words that the noted theologian, Reinhold Neibuhr, initially penned into the form of a prayer:

“O God, give me the serenity to
accept the things that cannot be
changed, the courage to change
what can be changed, and the
wisdom to know the difference!”

I want to tell you this morning about a very special octogenarian it was my privilege to know when I first began my ministry 40+ years ago in Pittsford, Vermont. She was one of the very last patients to ever be treated at the Vermont State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, where I served as the part-time chaplain...

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit;
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Well, unsophisticated and simple though these lines may be,
I sense they carry a powerful portion
of the “good news” of the Gospel itself.

The story about Jesus stilling the storm isn’t really about wind and water,
but rather it’s about worry and anxiety,
and it’s about the opposite of
fearfulness, which is faith!

“The worry cow
Would have lasted ‘til now
If she hadn’t lost her breath.
But she though her hay
Wouldn’t last all day,
So she mooed herself to death!”

Let’s not “moo ourselves to death” --
but rather, let’s learn to see the
simple and obvious reality that God is
very much present
in our unsettledness and confusion,
and God always chooses to work
through the weak to tumble the
arrogantly strong!

“Have you still no faith?” asked Jesus of his disciples.
…and today, the same question remains to be answered by each of us.

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Jesus made it very clear in his Sermon on the Mount that anxiety can be very destructive when it takes control of our lives.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not be
anxious about your life.... and
which of you by being anxious,
can add one cubit to his span of
life? ...Consider the lilies of the
field, they neither toil nor spin..”

And, after the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were filled with great awe and said to one another:
‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey?’ -- Matt 8:27

Let us pray:

When “storms” blow into our lives--our country, our world--help us, O God, to remember that fearfulness and anxiety subside, as our trust and faith in your embracing and empowering presence increases! Gracious God, help us to grow in confidence, in hopefulness, and in faith; in the challenging Spirit of our Savior, your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.