Trust Him to take care of it - 15th Sunday after Trinity
September 4, 2016 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross
Verse: 1 Peter 5:7
We are territorial creatures. We have a certain territory over which we exercise control. Some of it is chronological – time we claim for ourselves. Some of it is physical – our private space. Some of it is economic – resources we believe are at our disposal. And some of it is psychological – advantages we believe we have to help us cope. We are very jealous concerning that territory. So we build fences around it. Now these fences are vulnerable to a number of assaults that never stop. So we find ourselves constantly repairing them. For example, you have four hours next weekend marked for playing golf. Your spouse has those same four hours marked for cleaning the garage. Right away there’s a fence to mend. You have several hundred dollars marked for a weekend at the spa. Then you learn that your husband used half of it for an equity investment that can’t miss. There’s another fence to mend. If the assaults come slowly, you can put your strengths to work repairing them. But they come more quickly. Now you have to prioritize which fences to mend. As soon as you do that, you have to prioritize among the priority fences. From this you fall into anxiety.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls anxiety a sin. How is that? The assaults kept coming, and soon anxiety was the only response left. So how is that a sin? You were trying to do it yourself. It’s an impossible job for you to do yourself. Still, that is the problem. If you want to know which commandment it is breaking, go to the top of the list. Thou shalt fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Jesus says if you worry about your territory, you have “little faith.” Running around trying to mend the fences yourself is distrust of God. It isn’t only the extreme examples, such as the possibility of starving. God not only feeds the birds. He sets them in families, establishes their migratory patterns, and makes them aware of immediate peril. Birds don’t need fences around their territory, because they have no reason to have to control it. Who does control it? Their heavenly Father, and yours. That’s why they never have anxiety, but we do.
Those fences are pretty weak and flimsy. Think of how delicate this life is. Consider the subtle balance that produces our ability to enjoy life in this society. We need help to control the territory where we dominate. Indeed, we have to depend on God. But somehow we wish it were not so. We would prefer to depend on ourselves. We want to increase our responsibility, broaden our own role, even broaden our territory. The little motor that drives us to do that is anxiety. Jesus calls it by a less appealing name – little faith. We might try to run away from the problems, but sooner or later we find that we’re on a dead end street. But back to the other end of the street we find the cross and the empty tomb. Standing before these we can find relief.
We’re a bit reluctant to go there. The cross is where Jesus died. The tomb is where He was buried. It’s empty because it could not hold Jesus. He was made a curse to take that dreadful burden away from us onto Himself. But that curse was not the last word. His great victory was the last word. Whatever else this proves, it certainly proves that He can take care of our problems. He helps us understand that our anxiety is truly sin. If the Master we love is our ability to control things, then the Master we hate is God. Is it really that black and white? I’m afraid so. If you love the bad Master, then you hate the good one. It is that very seriousness that makes the cross so powerful. Jesus took that anxiety upon Himself. God loves you. He has redeemed you by the blood of His Son. He has washed you from the dirt and stench of it, and buried it in His tomb.
So we come to these golden words of St. Peter: Cast your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you. This means, in the first place, that Divine Providence is working for you. Yes, it is there for the just and the unjust alike, but it is certainly there for you. It brought you into the world, watched over your journey thus far, poured out abundant treasures for you to enjoy. But because you are a child of God, it did something far greater for you. It directed you to the sacred mysteries of the Gospel, to that special promise that your sins are forgiven. That doesn’t mean that Jesus will mend all the fences. He has a better plan. Living in your own territory is death. He has divine life to give. But he will assure you that He is your Friend, that you are part of His retinue. When the whole thing gets you down, He will give you comfort. He clears your conscience so it can no longer accuse you. He pulls out that supreme treasure, the hope of heaven, to keep you from the fear of death. Yes, that fear is real. Jesus Himself asked God if there were any other way. But since He accepted it, so can you. He was vindicated, you will also be vindicated.
Besides that, He has this gift: He will hear you when you pray. We can talk to God and be heard. We can let Him know what the cares are, what the anxiety is, and He accepts it all from you. Ask for the Holy Spirit. He will show you that your anxiety is sin, but He will assure you that Jesus takes it away. His Providence might not mend your fences, but it will come through them with all the necessities of life. In fact, the Spirit will help you knock the fences down. He will deliver you from your territory so you can live in God’s. Once that dreadful burden is gone, He still cares for you. It will try to come back, but you have help. God is your Father, Jesus is your Savior. The Spirit is your Counselor. Trust Him. His territory is holy ground. And He wants you there. AMEN.