Year A Epiphany 8 Matthew 6 2011
While complaining to his coworkers about his problem one day, one of his colleagues suggested a book on infant massage. Rayes immediately went in search of the book and that night, he tried the technique, gently rubbing his baby's back, arms, head, and legs until the baby was completely relaxed and obviously had fallen into a deep sleep. Quietly tiptoeing from the darkened room so as not to disturb the rhythmic breathing of the baby, he made his way directly to his own bed in hopes of enjoying a well deserved full night of sleep.
No such luck. In the middle of the night, his wife awoke him in a panic. "Get up, honey!" she said as she jostled him awake. "Go see why the baby is not crying!"
Do you know anybody like that? Some people are just worriers. Even when things go well they worry, they fret, they fume. They worry that something bad will happen.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells many memorable stories in her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal.
In one of her stories she asked one of her patients to describe her husband. The woman laughed and told a story about a visit they made to Hawaii. An organized and frugal man, her husband had re¬served compact rental cars on each of the four islands months in advance. On arriving on the Big Island and presenting their reservation to the car rental desk, they were told that the econ¬omy car they had reserved was not available. Alarmed, she watched her husband's face redden as he prepared to do battle. The clerk didn't seem to notice. "I am so sorry, sir," he said. "Will you accept a substitute for the same price? We have a Mus¬tang convertible." Barely mollified, her husband put their bags in this beautiful white sports car and they drove off.
The same thing happened throughout their holiday. They would turn in their car and fly to the next island, only to be told that the car they had been promised was not available. They of¬fered a substitute for the same price and each time the substituted car was an upgrade far nicer than the car they had expected. It was amazing, she said. After the Mustang, they had been given a Mazda MR 10, a Lincoln Town Car, and finally, a Mercedes, all with the most sincere apologies. The vacation was absolutely wonderful and on the plane back, she turned to her husband, thanking him for all he had done to arrange such a memorable time. "Yes," he said, pleased, "it was really nice." Then, much to her amazement he added, "Too bad they never had the right car for us." She said he was absolutely serious.
What do you do with people like that? Some people can see the dark side of any cloud, even one with a silver lining. They are worriers. They fume, they fret, they stay stressed out.
Do they ever read the words of Jesus?...
Life's Three Guides on the Pilgrim Way
Do you bring along a sandwich in your coat pocket when you are invited to dinner at a friend's house? Of course not!
Would you send your child out into a snowstorm in a swimsuit? No way!
As rude and self-centered and uncaring as we all can be, we still abide by some basics of good behavior. So why do we think God won't?
Jesus' message in today's gospel text chides his listeners for "worrying" — worrying about food, worrying about drink, worrying about clothing, worrying about covering all the bases in order to make life livable. Jesus knew the real needs for sustenance and shelter. They were a daily challenge for the average day laborer in first-center Palestine — as they are in twenty-first century America. He knows how hard it is to make ends meet — then and now.
But Jesus wants us to live a life that reaches beyond the struggles for everyday sustenance. Jesus invites others to come along with him, to join him in a lifelong journey that sought first "the kingdom of God and His righteousness." Jesus wants people on THAT pathway first, and then we can start looking for goods to glean while we are "on the way."
The fact is Jesus' message in today's gospel text isn't about the quest for food and clothing. As he stated, "your heavenly Father knows you need all these things." Jesus doesn't want to offer us just a daily full plate. Jesus wants to offer us an eternity of overflowing platters. Not just a life of sustenance, but a life of abundance. A life overflowing and brimming over. A life that provides more than bread in our belly and a shirt on our back.
The journey Jesus invites us to join feeds our soul, and clothes our mind, and fills our heart.
Before every car and every cell phone had its own GPS device planted in it, we used to plan trips with a series of maps and guidebooks. One of the big "perks" of a "Triple A" (American Automobile Association) membership was that they would put together your own personalized "trip-tick" for any journey you might be making on USA or Canadian roads. Anybody remember these? If you needed to travel from New York to Miami they would chart the way. Need the quickest cross-country route from Washington D.C. to San Francisco? They would plot it with a magic-marker. The "trip-tic" provided both regional maps, giving you an idea of how much geography you had to cover, and small, individual maps, focusing on the next fifty or one hundred miles. Off-ramps, restaurants, gas stations, rest stops — the AAA trip-tick gave you the "heads up" on everything that you were heading towards.
When we journey with Jesus we also get our own personal guidance "system." But God doesn't produce cheese sandwiches and electric blankets to see us through our kingdom-of-God journey. God doesn't send us mere sustenance. God offers us abundance. So God sends us guides to be with us and provide us with all we need to continue in our kingdom walk.
Jesus said that the "birds of the air" didn't sow, reap, or store. But those "birds of the air" do scavenge for seeds, dig out grubs, swoop up insects. The "lilies of the field" might not "toil nor spin." But flowers know how to put down roots, suck up nutrients, stretch for the sun, move with the wind. If we are going to recognize and integrate the guides God sends us into our lives, we need to discern the "guises" and "disguises" these "guides" might come in.
In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle testified that "on important issues, we do not trust our own ability to decide and call in others to help us deliberate." There are at least three kinds of guides, divinely programmed guidance systems, that accompany us on our Jesus journey towards the kingdom of God. If you join Jesus on "The Way," you can count on three guides that come in various guises...
- The Guide Within
- The Guide Beside
- The Guide Above