Sermon March 13, 2022: Jesus Changes Our Anxiety (Lent 2)

Image from Wikimedia

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/687539102

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3eIVMVFObO

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the Centering Prayer:

Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN 714 I Know Whom I Have Believed
Marshall Hall – I know whom I have believed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igC3fYB5AOU

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 405 Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of The God
Seek Ye First- Stands Youth Choir
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XjRYtMHthw

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Jesus Changes Our Anxiety
Matthew 6:24-34
Series: When Jesus Changed Our Mind

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audio (Wesley) … Sermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioKinmundy Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

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HYMN 377 It Is Well With My Soul
Bill & Gloria Gaither – It Is Well With My Soul (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgeyYqaDroo
or
Guy Penrod, David Phelps – It Is Well With My Soul (Live) [Official Video]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nJ6wQpLmuo

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

If we follow Jesus, Jesus is going to lead us into a new place, a changed place. And as we follow, we will find that our lives, our situations, will also change because Jesus will change our minds. One of those things, as Jesus tells us what to do, is he will change our anxiety.

This is a very famous picture. It’s entitled Distracted Boyfriend and the photographer is Antonio Guillem. On a beautiful day in Barcelona, Spain, he took three actors out into the city and photographed them in a variety of settings where the boyfriend was distracted and the girlfriend was upset. Now there’s a whole set of pictures. This is the most famous one. (There’s actually another one to where he’s kneeling presenting her with their engagement ring and he’s looking off to the side at the other woman.)

In 2017 it became viral as a meme to where you’ve got the distraction, you’ve got the person who’s distracted or tempted, and then you have the person who has anxiety. Although I put anxiety in quotes because there’s a whole lot more in that expression, isn’t there boys and girls? Oh, yeah. There’s some anger there. There’s some disappointment there. There’s some betrayal there. There’s the look that says, “You should be looking at me. You should be paying attention to me.”

And they have put this meme out in all kinds of forms. One of my favorite ones is the girl in red – what it says there is all the books in the bookstore, and the distracted fellow is me, and it’s all the books I want to buy and then next to him it says, “What about all the books at home you haven’t read yet?” Well, it’s a human thing, it’s a human thing! But I don’t want to talk about guys looking at girls that much so I decided to change it to chocolate so we can be at kind of a higher level here.

But here’s what Jesus says about anxiety, “No one can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” And Mammon is a term that refers to the yearnings of this material world.

And then Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious.” Not a very easy thing to say. “Therefore, I tell you,” Jesus says, “do not be anxious about your life. Do not be anxious about what you shall eat. Do not be anxious about what you shall drink nor about your body. What you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Now, as I was thinking about this scripture I found myself going down the road that we typically go down which is to take that English word anxiety or anxious look it up in an English dictionary. Look the topic up in a bunch of books on psychology. And I had decided that I wanted to talk to you about the anxiety that we are dealing with as a culture.

And I know you understand this. We’re starting to see statements now on Facebook that say, “It was two years ago that everything changed.” And we’ve had two years of incredible anxiety. Not only that, with all the political stuff that’s going on, and now the war in the Ukraine and all kinds of other stuff, we have a different kind of anxiety. We have an anxiety to where we are like vicious barking dogs attacking other people.

In fact, all you have to do to get attacked is to say something on Facebook. “It’s a beautiful day today,” and immediately people will type:

“People in the Ukraine are having an awful day! How dare you have a beautiful day?”

“Down the road, it’s raining, and my sister’s kids can’t play outside. Don’t you care about them?”

And we are just constantly attacking each other because we are so anxious.

And I want to tell you, friends, it’s a mistake because we have to let Jesus Christ define what he means by anxiety. Okay? Now, the English dictionary says this, our counselors and psychologists say this. But the meaning for anxiety, when Jesus talks about it, is going to come out of the context in the scripture.

So it’s quite interesting. You look at that word that’s translated anxious in the New Testament Greek, and it turns out it doesn’t exactly mean anxious. The Greek word literally is merimnate (Μεριμνᾶτε), the Greek word that is used by Jesus. And let’s assume he used it on purpose. Literally, it means, “Do not let yourself be divided. Do not let yourself be distracted. Do not let yourself be broken down. Do not let yourself be pulled apart.” When Stan is going up for a jump shot, he needs to not let himself be distracted as he lets go of the ball. When Steve is standing in the batter’s box and the pitch is coming toward him, you don’t want to be distracted by someone in the stands.

So what Jesus is literally saying here, and I mean that literally, “Therefore, I tell you, do not let yourself be distracted about your life.” Now, when the Greeks would use that word, yes, they would use it about worry. But it was not worry as much as the way we think of worry as the effect of worry, because what worry does is it distracts you from what’s important. And when you look at the context, Jesus says in the very first verse, “This is what causes you that anxiety, that temptation to try to serve two masters.” That’s what pulls us apart … there’s something we want, and it distracts us from what’s most important. It divides us. It pulls us apart. This couple is divided by that moment of distraction.

But to be honest friends, I actually am both people on the screen there. Because see, there’s a part of me that wants the chocolate, but there’s a part of me that knows that that’s not really what I want. And I am pulled in two directions. And that’s what Jesus means when he talks about being anxious. Don’t let yourself be pulled in two directions. And we really need to pay attention to what has our attention, because then we’ll be aware of all the different ways that you and I are distracted today. And then we can talk ourselves out of those distractions. Now, not everybody here is that interested in chocolate. Maybe it’s something salty that’s up there. Maybe it’s that third quarter-pounder cheeseburger. I don’t know what it is for you, but we all get distracted from what really is important.

What should I wear? Jesus goes on to say, verse 26, “Look at the birds in the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you, by being anxious, by being distracted by the things of this world, can add one cubit, one moment to his span of life?” Verse 28, “And why are you anxious about clothing?” Some of us are more anxious about clothing than the rest of us. I walk into the closet; I take the shirt that’s on the right. I am not anxious at all.

Other people really do wrestle with what they should wear. Well, if I wear this, Grandma will think it’s too short. If I wear that, Mama will think it’s too old-fashioned. If I wear that, my daughter will be embarrassed of me. They hear a thousand different voices arguing with any decision they make.

Why are you anxious about clothing?” Jesus says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. Yet, I tell you, even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O man of little faith?

Now, one thing you can be certain: when you look at a field of spring flowers, the roses are not anxious because they’re not daisies. The daisies do not want to look like tulips, nor do they think they’ll be prettier if they look like tulips. But we’re continually distracted from being how God made us in order to please someone else. And in fact, the minute you ask the question what should I wear, a thousand different people will try to tell you what to do. In fact, that’s the reality, no matter when you ask the question, “What should I do?” You’ll hear a thousand different options from a thousand different voices trying to make you do things the way they like it…

Which brings me to– remember the very first time people were anxious about clothing?

Let’s go back to the garden of Eden’s story in Genesis, chapter 2. Adam and Eve had one rule. “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil.” And the devil said, “Oh, you should eat that. It’ll make you smart. You’ll know all about what’s good and of evil.” That night, God goes walking in the garden, and Adam and Eve hide. And God says, “Why are you hiding?” And Adam and Eve say, “Because we were naked.” And God says the most interesting question that I think is really helpful to us today. God says, “Who told you you were naked? Was it not the devil? Was it not the result of the fruit?”

Remember exactly what God called it? The knowledge of good and of evil. You know what the knowledge of good and of evil gives you? It gives you an awareness of everything that’s wrong about something that you would wear. It gives you an awareness, as you go down the buffet table, of everything that’s wrong and bad for you about every dish that’s laid out. The knowledge of good and of evil, when somebody else tells you their opinion, gives you an awareness of everything that’s wrong with that person, and every way that they are dumb, sick, stupid, crazy, and bad. And you know how that works because those same people have told you exactly that about you. Where did it come from?

And I think we need to hear God asking that same question today. You’re divided. You’re upset. You can’t make up your mind. Well, who told you that? Because I think it will help us to be less anxious. This afternoon, if you’re watching TV, if you have a minute to open up the newspaper or look through a magazine, please take notice of the advertisements. Somewhere deep down in every advertisement is buried a simple idea:

“Until you wear our jeans, you’re really ugly.”
“Until you buy our product, there’s something wrong with you.”
“Until you own the kind of car that we’re saying you should own, nobody really likes you. Oh, they say they do, but they’re lying.”

And what God says to all those critical voices is, “Who told you that?” Because it wasn’t God.

What makes commercials work is that they make you feel unworthy. They make you feel inadequate. And you hear all these voices from the world that say,

“Oh, eat this, and your life will be wonderful.”
“Drink that, and all your problems will disappear.”
That should make us chuckle, wouldn’t it?
“Wear these clothes, and you’ll be everybody’s favorite person.”

And friends, you and I know it’s not true, but out come the credit cards, and all of a sudden, we’re distracted by the things of this world because that message has sunk into our hearts. And here’s what God says to it. Who told you that you need to wear those jeans or drive that car or live in this kind of house to be happy? Therefore, do not be divided. Do not be distracted, do not be pulled apart because you’re trying to serve two Masters. You’re trying to please everybody.

Therefore, do not be anxious saying, “What’s the right thing to eat? What’s the popular thing to drink? What’s the beautiful thing that we should wear?” Verse 32, For the Gentiles, seek all these things. The people who are far away from God are distracted by all these things. Oh, oh, oh, and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But if you let your heavenly Father tell you what’s important, then everything else will fall into place and you’ll have what you truly need.

You see, here’s the cure for distraction. It’s a singular focus.

Now, you see those two circles there? One circle says, “What we buy,” but it could also say, “What I do.” It could also say, “What I want.” And you see over there, next to that circle, we have the bar of chocolate. Well, that bar of chocolate stands for anything it is that you feel this yearning for that’s of the world.

Over on the other side, there’s a circle that says, “What we value.” It could also say, “What we truly want.” It could say, “What God wants for us,” because God knows it’s best for us. And you notice that over there, I have put a healthy body, which I want, and over that I put broccoli. Now, I’ll be honest with you, I really do like broccoli. I may even like it as much as I like chocolate! But the thing I know about broccoli is it’s good for me.

And the point of the picture is the distance between what we do and what God tells us to do, the difference between what we buy and what we value, the further apart they are, the more divided they are, the more different they are, the more pain you will have in your life.
But if you could take what you value and move what you do to where it matches that, you’ll have no pain at all. That’s what the picture suggests.

Here’s what Jesus suggests: seek first the highest priority, the greatest value. The #1 thing to do, the first thing to do, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Now, what does it mean to seek the Kingdom? Well, the King has ways that the King wants you to do things. If you’re going to be a patriot in the Kingdom of God, you’re going to do what the King tells you to do.

What does it mean: His righteousness? The word righteousness means right, it means to be made right. It means to be made right or mended from what’s broken. It means to be repaired. It means to be made whole. The word righteousness means wholeness.

You will not find the wholeness of God in all the things of this world that distract us. But if you seek God’s ways and God’s wholeness, not only will you receive that, but all the other things in this world will sort themselves out into the place and the priority where they belong. And you will be less anxious because you’ll no longer be pulled in two different directions by trying to serve two masters.

Because you see, brothers and sisters, I want to take the 23rd Psalm literally. The Lord is your shepherd. You’re on a path. That path leads to green pastures and still waters. God has a plan, and it’s not a plan to leave us in the mud or in our misery, but to lead us to what is the best in this life, to the restoration of our souls. That’s what the 23rd Psalm promises. And you see, at the heart of being on a path is that what you want to do is stay on the path.

What does it mean to over-function? Well, to over-function is when we do too much. You and I may be tempted by chocolate, but you don’t have to develop a plan that gets rid of all the chocolate in the world. You don’t have to go to grocery stores that do not sell chocolate. You don’t need to worry about that. All you need to do is stay on the path.

But in the same way, you don’t want to under-function and buy all the chocolate you can, especially if it’s on sale. What you want to do is stay in the balance of what Jesus is asking you to do in your life today.

And here’s how he puts that. “Therefore,” Jesus says, “do not be distracted. Do not be anxious about tomorrow because when tomorrow gets here, it will have its own struggles. Tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Deal with what you have to deal with today, and that’ll be enough. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

So here’s the antidote to anxiety. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all the things of this world will sort themselves out. We need to keep our eyes on the road. I’d like to ask you to contemplate this when you feel anxious. The next time you’re in the middle of a time of anxiety or worry, I’d like to ask you to notice how your attention is being pulled in multiple directions. More often than not in my life, I’m anxious whenever I’m trying to do too much.

And to me, this image of someone texting in three lanes of traffic on the interstate is the greatest example of trying to do too much. It doesn’t matter what messages are coming in on the phone. It doesn’t matter what message you’re needing to send out. At this moment, when you’re on the interstate, three lanes of the interstate, with that much traffic, it’s not that important. Anxiety comes when we’re pulled between two masters, and it’s not even being pulled between Jesus’s way and some other way. It’s being pulled in a dozen different directions from a dozen different experts all trying to tell us how to live.

But if we just refocus on what’s right in front of us … and in that moment, seek to do what God wants … Seek to follow Jesus … I think you’ll find your anxiety will calm.

And if being on the phone is important, you’ll have an opportunity to pull over and do that calmly. Let’s keep our eyes on the road. Let’s follow Jesus and not be distracted.

Please pray with me: Lord, life is distracting, and our attention is constantly pulled in dozens of different directions. Lord, help us in that problem of pulling away from what is important. To look around ourselves so that we notice what you would tell us is important. Out of a thousand nagging voices, out of a thousand criticizing voices, help us, Lord, to hear that still small voice that tells of your love for us and how much we are loved by you. And then, Lord, help us to turn our attention toward what matters, toward following you. And allow everything that would distract us to fall into place and in its proper place. We ask this blessing for our lives in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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