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Live Simply: Follow Jesus Sermon
Matthew 6: 13-35

October 2, 2016

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

Most of you know that it was a little over two years ago when both of my parents died. These were the people who had the most impact on how I live my life as an adult. They really didn’t take a lot of time out to intentionally teach me things I would need; mostly, they modelled a lifestyle that included generosity, hospitality and faith. Their lives were centered on a confidence that God would care for them, and because of that, enjoyed many good things in life. They had a modest but nice home, lots of friends and family whom they loved and loved them in return, and a church family that was very important to them. Their travels were extensive, from driving around the United States in their motor home, to jetting off to Russia, China, Switzerland and many other exotic places. They were successful at business, but the one thing I always admired about my dad especially was that, unlike many business owners who were unapproachable, wearing suits and ties, tucked away in an office with phone-calls screened all day, dad would still go out to jobsites to figure out material lists, meet homeowners, working to solve problems right alongside his employees and other contractors. His fashion style was built more on comfort than looks – he would usually wear jeans and a soft pull-over shirt to work, and his office door was never shut. I try to live that same kind of life that he and mom both modeled, although I know that I fall short regularly.

There was a time when I didn’t think life would be possible without my parents. And now, even though I think about them often and wish they were still alive and healthy, I also appreciate the gift that they gave to me in modelling a life which included trust in God. The scripture reading you heard this morning is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Having sat down, the posture of someone ready to teach, he launches into topics like the kingdom, the law and prayer - huge spiritual issues. Then he moves to everyday life, earthly concerns – real nitty gritty stuff, like why we worry so much. “Do not worry saying, ‘what will we eat?’ or, ‘what will we drink,’ or ‘what will we wear?’” He even says that we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying about these things. And how does one avoid this kind of worrying in life? Look around … no, not right now, here. I mean Jesus is saying that to avoid the obsessive kind of worry that we sinful humans get caught up in, we are called to look around. More accurately, I think that he is telling us to engage with God’s creation so that we can know just how blessed we are. Take in the scene of lilies blowing in the fields, their fragrance floating in the breeze, their brilliant colors glowing in the sun for all to enjoy. Check out the birds of the air, watch their grace as they defy gravity with their ability to fly. When I read David Patterson’s biography of the Wright Brothers, I was impressed with the infatuation that the French had during the early 1900s with flight (which ingratiated Orville to them) – to observe the birds and to try to mimic their unique physiology and movements to achieve the ability to soar through the air. Those people living in Jesus’ time may not have had the capability to replicate that engineering, but they did have the ability to admire these creatures in flight. And they appreciated the natural beauty that lilies and roses and other flowers brought to an otherwise barren setting. So Jesus goes with this and asks what do you do when you worry about what you are to eat and what you are to drink? It begins with looking around to notice what God has provided you in abundance. Now I am literally telling you to look around here and now. It begins with the community in which you find yourself at worship today. It includes those who worship in other places today, and it extends to my parents, your loved ones and all who worship around the heavenly throne now that this busy life is over. They are still with us, still encouraging us, still making an impression on us and how we are to live. And we can experience them still, if we just look around.

This is a challenging way of life for us today. Labor saving technology and inventions like the airplane, automobiles, household appliances, computers and smart phones only seem to make life even busier, more complicated than it used to be before we had them. When we have more, we naturally want more – it is part of our human, sinful condition. Even our busy-ness and complicated lives become things that we serve and have a strange affinity for. I sometimes wonder if I really want a simpler life! Many of us like the busy life, we admire those who are always doing something. It is a sign of being productive, and proving our worth in the world. We sometimes feel guilty when we have a day or a week when things slow down, get simpler and we get a chance to just … look around.

The problem is, when we serve our own busy-ness as a master instead of God, we are apt to suffer from anxiety. Obsessed with fear, control and more things to worry about, we fall into the rut of believing that we are doomed because it all depends on us. But it doesn’t and Jesus calls on us to look around and notice how many things in our immediate area has nothing to do with how busy we are or how much we do. Simplicity comes when we turn from our inward, worrying venue, to looking outward at God’s good creation. As we seek to model our lives after Jesus, we realize that Jesus never turned his focus inward. He was always looking outwardly, at those around him to live simply and to serve joyfully.
What replaces worry and fear then? Ministry. Serving God and serving others; a life that is more than fretting every hour of every day to procure our food and clothing for ourselves and our families; an outward direction which simplicity affords us to practice. We live simply by trusting God’s abundance and shifting our attention from our needs to the needs of others. We learn what the birds and the flowers already know – that God’s kingdom is already here. We proclaim the salvation that comes with trusting God’s care, shedding our fear, and serving God’s people.

My parents were a model of abundance, simplicity and trust, which led them to be very generous with God’s blessings. They were comfortable and experienced joy in so many ways, but they did not die rich by any means – after all of their debts were paid and accounts cleared, each of their four children received a few thousand dollars. But in life, we all received immeasurable blessings as we loved them and served them in their final years. And we learned to trust God by not worrying about having enough to live on. That’s the way I hope my life goes until the very end. That’s the way I pray your life goes to the very end as well. Amen.