Pentecost 9, 2022

Jesus enjoins us not to worry. It seems like there is plenty to worry about today. Between Russia’s war in Ukraine, a shaky economy, and climactic chaos which has fallen hard on the people of St. Louis, Kentucky, and fire-charred California lately, it feels very much like a time to worry. My guess is that the preacher will will be confronted by a fair number of parishioners who are worried. I am worried because my daughter works in a grocery store where meth-addled street people regularly enter and steal things, strutting middle-aged losers keep trying to ask her out on dates, and her job means she has to bring the garbage to the back parking lot which is currently inhabited by several of Portland’s finest tent-dwellers. Her strategy for the garbage runs is that she has befriended Angel, the felon who works in the meat department. In her words, “Angel really looks like a felon, but is a nice guy.” The two of them make the garbage run to that back lot together. That certainly sets my paternal worries at ease! My daughter’s safety seems to hang on the good graces of an ex-con named Angel. What could possibly go wrong?

What does Jesus say to me, you, and your people in these words today? What does his admonition not to be anxious mean except an impossible burden? The preacher will need to struggle with the reality of this. It does not feel like the little flock of our pericope’s final paragraph should be contentedly grazing on those green pastures and drinking from those calm waters. It seems they they should gathered in a group and keeping an eye on the predator lurking on the perimeter of that pasture.

Such tensions make the best sermons if you can grab it, use it, and proclaim what Christ is saying to your folks. It doesn’t mean you can make the threat go away. Only Jesus can do that. But you can proclaim another sort of care for Jesus people. They have regularly walked calmly and peacefully into the very teeth of death and suffering. They were able to do so because Jesus keeps the promises which he makes here.

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