This past week I had the privilege of preaching to my new church. There is nothing quite like preaching “cold”, that is, preaching to a new place without knowing the people. Itinerants do it all the time, and I’ve done so several times, but its still innerving.
How might they react? Will they love it? Or will they want to throw me off a cliff like they did to Jesus in the synagogue?
It was Jesus’ words that I was to preach on. In a series determined late last year, I just so happened to be preaching on Jesus teaching about worry in his famous sermon on the mount.
As the events of this week have seen the COVID-19 coronavirus rendered New Zealand in a sense of panicked pandemic, I thought it would be pertinent to share some of what I preached.
Matthew chapter 6, verse 25-34 was a sobering passage of scripture to reflect on in what was a week of worry. Jesus’ words hit me like a ton of bricks. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat and what you will drink”.
This week we have seen hordes of panic shoppers empty shopping malls of food and supplies. People are very worried about themselves. Worry has a way of engulfing us. It dulls our senses. When we worry, it is hard to do anything else.
Wonder has a way of lifting our eyes up, to marvel at our surroundings. Jesus knew this which is why he used picture-language. He invited the disciples to use their imagination when he said to “look at the birds”, to allow themselves to picture them being fed in various different ways—ultimately showing God’s care for them.
He invited further imagination when he said to “look at the lilies of the field”, directly comparing them to Solomon’s royal garb—a sure way of firing up the imagination of Jews who could only imagine the splendour of Solomon in the stories passed down to them from generation to generation.
Jesus invited his disciples, and us, to survey the wonders of creation in ways that made our worries seem insignificant in comparison.
Whenever my 11-month-old son looks at the trees, marvelling at how the wind blows the leaves, I am filled with a sense of wonder. Whenever I catch a sunset out of the corner of my eye it doesn’t matter what I am doing—eating dinner, talking to someone, or watching tv—I can be interrupted and filled with wonder.
During this period of time, I urge you to intentionally look for and allow yourself to be interrupted by wonder.
When worry overwhelms me it becomes the loudest voice that I hear. Lies can become so loud that they sound like the truth. But the truth stands in opposition to lies.
There were a couple of home-truths that Jesus’ wanted to get through to his disciples listening to his teaching. That firstly, we are all made by a Creator and secondly, we are cared for and looked after by our Creator. These are simple truths and yet they often become contested when people worry.
All of creation is intimately made by God, meaning that great care has been taken by its Maker to ensure its well-being. This care happens whether we pay attention to it or not. Jesus’ goes on to ask the disciples, if God cares so much for such non-human parts of creation like the birds and the flowers—how much more so he cares for you!
It could be so easy to “self-isolate”, in a time of crises. We can do this physically, sure, but we also can do so mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If there is a statement that summarises the entire passage, it is Jesus words: “so do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today”.
Worry brings pain before it happens. Worry is allowing tomorrow to be the thief of today. It leads to sleepless nights, back-up plans upon back-up plans, and a whole lot of wasteful thinking.
No wonder Jesus says why even bother worrying as if it will add a second to your life. The irony is not lost. Worrying literally takes away moments of your life that you may never get back.
In this time of extreme worry and anxiety, Jesus invites us to place our trust in Him and more so to trust God to provide our needs and care for us as only He can.
Caleb Haurua is a young dad, a NZ Warriors supporter, and Youth Pastor in Central Auckland. A proud Maori & Cook Island man, he gained his Masters in Applied Theology at Carey Baptist College and has been in ministry since 2017. He loves to openly muse about things in articles like this one.