>“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?”
If my mother had heard me proclaim these words of Christ, she wouldn’t have said anything, but her actions would have spoken volumes. She would have been quiet on the ride home and once back in the kitchen, she’d still not say a word – but bang the spoon on the pot, shut the oven door a bit too forcefully, and just stare me down – I’d get what my high school sweetheart called, “la musa dura;” the hard look, and eventually she’d say in her deep, low voice, “Yeah right, already. What do you mean, ‘Don’t worry?’”
This is a woman who worried all of her thirty-nine years for good reason. She worried about where the money was going to come from for clothes and food for six children, worried about paying the rent on time, worried about the utilities being paid up in full, worried where the next job was going to come from when she lost a job, worried about what would happen to us when she was gone.
Forty years after her death, and in this, the year, and on this, the day on which she would have turned eighty, I’m proud to stand before you, my sisters and my brothers, and tell you that Jeannette Ekstrom’s kids managed just fine using what she taught all of us, and we turned out okay.
But the worrying hasn’t gone away. We worry about the same things. Raise your hand if you haven’t lain awake nights worrying about the necessities of life.
It’s very hard in these tough economic times to hear these beautiful words of Jesus, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’” Is he saying to us that we should just pull the covers over our heads at dawn’s first light and snuggle down for a few more hours of sleep, not bother to get up and go to work if we have jobs, not look for work if we don’t, and not worry about the past due notices piling up?
Here’s what I think – no.
Jesus asks us in this incredibly beautiful passage from the Sermon on the Mount that we should turn to God and to strive to enter the Kingdom first before we turn to the difficult task of daily life. Note the word, strive – work towards it, make it a goal. Make it a priority. What I am suggesting is make it the very first item on your to-do list, even before you turn on the coffee maker, or take up your place in the queue at the coffee shop. He knows that the task is daunting and road is rough. But once we surrender our hearts to God’s unconditional love, set our minds on what we are called to do in Christ’s name, then we have the means to provide for and help those who cannot provide for themselves, and to provide for ourselves. God comes before mammon.
This passage is very difficult, isn’t it? When one ponders and puts to prayer what we should do in light of these charges, it’s easy to come up feeling very insecure, very unsure. And yet, the good news is right before us. Our father in heaven will reward us if we turn to him. Our burdens are at sometimes extremely heavy, and we have moments where we can’t keep going, but who is behind us, beside us, above us, beneath us, all around us, to take those burdens from us?
Mom, don’t worry. My friends, don’t worry!
Easy to say, but it’s true.
Christ, working in us makes all things possible, and even when we’ve hit rock bottom, he is there and consoles us when we come up short, encouraging us to dust ourselves off and get back on the road. Christ is our thanksgiving.
This afternoon, or evening, when we join our families and friends at our Thanksgiving tables, when you and I gather in Hodgkin Hall, we will literally break bread, and we will feast on love and give thanks. And not just on this holiday, but every day, when we gather together. The fellowship of this table brings Christ into those circles of friends and loved ones and the redemptive love He brings feeds us, loves us and supports us and we are thankful for it.
As has been my custom, on this day of feasting, I’ll offer a prayer called “Brigid’s Feast”:
I should like a great lake of finest ale for the King of Kings;
I should like a table of the choicest food for the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith,
And the food be forgiving love.
I should welcome the poor to my feast, for they are God’s Children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast, for they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.
God bless the poor, God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.
God bless our food, God bless our drink,
All homes, O God, embrace.