Anxious times

Yesterday afternoon I set up a meeting with a young man who needed to talk. I asked him where he would like to meet and he suggested that we meet in a McDonald’s Restaurant. I’m not a frequent customer of McDonalds, but I knew where the restaurant he wanted to meet was. As I entered the restaurant, I recognized a member of my congregation, sitting with a couple of other gentlemen. I nodded at him, but sat in a different area of the restaurant to wait for the person I was to meet. As I sat there, I received a text message that the meeting wouldn’t work for him after all and proposing that we meet the next day. So I went over and greeted the member of my congregation and sat down with him and his friend for a few minutes. They were watching the end of the funeral service for President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. The service followed the public one the day before at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This was a smaller one with about 1,200 invited guests. It wasn’t however, exactly private. The television crews were giving it full coverage.

I had my back to the television, but I could hear it. A couple of minutes after I sat down, the program cut to commercials and when they returned, the funeral was over and there was another news story being discussed by a television personality.

One of the gentlemen with whom I was sitting commented, “Well, I guess the funeral is over. Now we have to go back to politics. That’s the only thing that is on, these days.” We then had a short discussion about being tired of ceaseless politics.

I don’t watch much television, but I do have to agree with the speaker. We get overloaded with politics these days. It seems as if elections, campaigning, and election news are everywhere. Part of it is the continual nature of campaigning in today’s world. As soon as one election is over, they start campaigning for the next one. Part of it is the unsealed nature of the electorate. We’re a divided nation and many elections are close. Part of it is the nature of television and Internet coverage of news.

I decided not to comment that the reason it is the only thing that is on may have to do with the choice of channels on the television - and the choice to watch television at all.

I deal with a lot of anxious people these days. They are anxious about things in their personal lives. They are anxious about the state of the economy and the price of the things they need. They are anxious about health care and the status of heir health. They are anxious about the uncomfortable conversations they are having around their family dinner table and with their friends at church. There is a lot of anxiety around.

The great Old Testament teacher, Walter Brueggemann, has written and spoken about the difference between the way that we talk about faith in the contemporary church and the meaning of faith to the prophets. When we talk about faith, we often talk about having a particular set of beliefs. It is often intellectual assent - we agree with a creed or a statement of faith. It wasn’t so for the prophets. For them, faith is trusting God. If you trust God and the goodness of God, you don’t have to be anxious. People of faith don’t need to worry about the future. It is only when we mistakenly think that we are in charge - or other humans are in charge - that we are overcome with anxiety. If God is in charge, all is well with the world, regardless of the political realities, regardless of our personal status, regardless of the span of our life.

To be a person of faith is to let God be God and not to try to be a god yourself.

Not worrying is a big topic for Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Our faith has a lot to offer to the anxious people in our world. I’m not sure that I am always eloquent in communicating that to others. I’m not sure that I am always able to let go of my own anxiety, but I am working on it. And I hope I can share my faith with others in ways that allow them to be less anxious, too.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!