Bringing Order to the Worried Mind

Bringing Order to the Worried Mind | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO Church

 This is a transcript from the March 24, 2019 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

We are talking about worry this morning. What are you worried about? If I were to ask you just take a moment and jot down, what is the things that come to the top of your mind that are on the top of your mind? What are the things that you're worried about this morning? Is that the economy? Is it politics? Is it health? Is it world affairs? What are you worried about? Is it something more personal as it having to do with relationships?

Your own health must have to do with something, and change, and the weather, and all the headlines that are incessant in front of us, and telling us all the things for which we should be worried about. What are you worried about this morning? Are you worried how your bracket is doing? How your car will start? How are you worried about your job this week? Are you worried that I'm just going to keep talking about all the things to worry about and just add more things that you didn't even think about beforehand?

Actually, I want to give you one more thing to think about. For all the things that we may have named to be worried about, I think there's one more thing to add to your list, and that one more thing is worry. We should be worried about the way we worry. That's the gist of what Jesus is talking about. I don't know if the things that are on your list are actually worthy of your worry. Most of the things we worry about, of course, never come true. When it comes to worrying what we do know is that when we worry too much, these are the things that have been documented.

Bringing Order to the Worried Mind | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO Church

This is just a partial list. Friends, unless you are watching a really good college basketball game, those things should not be true of you. You may be worrying too much. Even if you are watching a game, you might want to step back a bit. Worry.

What are you worried about? What is it doing to you? Jesus goes on to say in the midst of our passage, 

"Can any of you by worrying add a single hour

to the span of your life?"

It's rhetorical question. We know the answer, it's no. What he doesn't say and what we already know now today, of course, is no, but you can take a few hours away. You can shorten your life, you can diminish the quality of your life by the way that we go about worrying.

Worrying is a good thing to be talking about. We should be worried about the way that we worry this morning. That's why I want to tag back into our series that we're doing, the quest for a well ordered heart. It is a series that is designed to take a look at, what are the things that we carry on? What do we need to clean out the spring cleaning of our own soul more than our garage, more than our closets? What's in here in our heart gets in the way?

It gets to that observation by Augustine about 1600 years ago when he said that the core of virtue and the core of vice, all has to do with the way we love things, so disordered loves. How you can take a good thing, but if you love it with the wrong love in the wrong order, you can really mess it up. Was it about 10 days ago now that the story broke about the parents who rigged the system to get their kids into colleges by bribing and doing all those things?

Does anybody really think those were bad parents in the sense that they didn't love their children? They wanted the best for their kids, we get that right, but somehow in the midst of that, they loved the wrong thing in the wrong order with the wrong love and just made a hash of things, the things that they were worried about the future of their children and how to do that well. As they were fussing and fretting and worrying into it, in the end, they've made it worse than it ever would have been.

Think any scandal, this isn't the same. Often, there is something that is at the core that is not bad in and of itself, but it gets put in the wrong order and loved in the wrong way, and it just makes chaos. For everyone, what is a well-ordered heart? A well-ordered heart, going to Augustine, is that we love the right things in the right way in the right order with the right love. There's a quest because when we do that, then our life opens up and we get to experience some of the joy that we were meant for in the first place.

Bringing Order to the Worried Mind | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO Church

That is not to say that there shouldn't be worry. This is not to say that in this sermon, this is not one of those sermons that say, "Don't worry, be happy." It's not that kind of sermon. It's not this kind of congregation, and this is definitely not that kind of passage, because that's not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is not talking about a sense of aloofness with life. Don't worry about your life.

Even bordering on responsibility, the word of worry, the import of it, the power of it is probably better rendered in today's language around threat, or stew. Don't fret, don't keep spreading, don't keep stewing, don't keep going around and around and around in circles over these things that you can't control anyway. Because when you do, nothing good comes of it.

Worry becomes a part of a vicious cycle, becomes all the more because as you know, nine-tenths of the things that you and I worry about as we project into the future, "No. What about this? What about this? What about this? What about this?" Then obviously nine-tenths of those things never come about, and there is this feedback loop, "Well, it's good thing because I worried about it, therefore it didn't come true." We are more set up to keep worrying and keep worrying as if that were going to help us.

What are you worried about today? What is it doing to you? What's it doing to the people around you? That's where we get to our example of Marie Kondo, and just musing over how was it this person who's made this new living in this, who's a superstar now for writing a book you may have heard or you may have read her book, you may have watched her show or likely you have talked to somebody who has read her book or watched her show because they have told you all about her. This woman who has this book about the Magic of Tidying Up.

Bringing Order to the Worried Mind | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO Church

What it goes through and what you do and if you know this, if you know this about her, you know that not only is she the one who holds things up and says, "So does this spark joy? If it isn't, you can think it and let it go and get rid of it, so that you keep the things around you, only that spark joy." The second thing she is known for is baskets. Oh good lord, does she have baskets? Everything is in a basket. Everything is in a container, and it's at that point, it seemed to me, that I thought, "Boy, there's some crossover here," because we're not just talking about closet space, now we're talking about what's in here.

Bringing Order to the Worried Mind | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO Church

Because it seems what Jesus is talking about is that we've got this basket, our basket, and there are too many things in our basket that we think belong to us that don't really belong to us. We worry about things that really aren't ours to worry about, and when we do, we miss the things that are there to worry about. We are carrying too much and we miss what's going on. Corrie Ten Boom had a way of saying it years and years ago, when she says, "Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength, carrying two days at once."

Bringing Order to the Worried Mind | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO Church

Mind you, this is a woman who knew something about what to worry about, that she survived the concentration camps, even as her family, her sister, did not. There are things in this world that are scary. Yet, she is able to say worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength, carrying two days at once. It's moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrows, just today of its strengths.

What are you carrying in your basket today? Does it really belong? There is this part that wishes we could get rid of it, and so there's the joke of the man who said, "I need to quit worrying so much." He tried everything and finally decided, "I know what to do. I will hire someone to worry for me," and he does. He find somebody and the agreement is, "I will pay you $200,000 a year if you will do all my worrying for me." Done, and then the man asked, "Where are you going to get $200,000 to pay me.? "That's for you to worry about."

We would like to delegate that. The reason I tell it, is not that just because it's humorous, there's ridiculousness of it. I'm going to say that we live that out every day, not in the delegating, but within the assumption. Many of us have signed up to be the official worriers of the universe. I will worry about stuff that really belongs to God. I have signed up and self-assigning myself as the cosmic worrier. I will worry about and I will kick in my basket all these things.

It sounds ridiculous in a story. It is ridiculous in life when we do it, as well. So if we can't delegate it, what do we do? I just would say that actually, one of the things that we do, is what you're doing right now. We're in worship. Worship is one of the antidotes to worry. When we do it well, when we do it right, when we bring our full sails, when we open ourselves up to God, worship is one of the great antidotes to worry.

Because every time we come to worship together, we are putting things in the right order. We are affirming there is a God and that I'm not God. We are affirming that I'm part of something larger and I have my part to play. We are with our music and our prayers and our presence. We are putting things in the right order and we need it every time. That's what we do when we come to worship.

There are all kinds of different strategies for dealing with stress. We should do them all. You should get enough sleep, you should eat right, you should exercise, of course, of course, of course. What I'm saying here for our purposes this morning is that don't neglect this as an antidote as well because underneath the activity and the business and the disquiet of our lives, is a disordered heart that keeps taking on as if everything were up to us. At least that's how we worry. That's how we fret. That's how we fuss.

The irony when we take on too many things is we end up doing less. We're available for less because we are so worried about all the other things out here that we aren't able to even do the things that we really have been given to do, that have our name on them. It is in worship that we come and say, "This really goes to God's basket."? If we really worship well, we recognize that in God's basket is us too because we belong to God and that we are loved. If we do it well, every Sunday, every time we worship, we are able to submit our letter of resignation as the cosmic worrier. Done.

Give that job back so that we can reclaim the original job description beloved by God because that's who you are. You're beloved by God. Can't you believe Jesus says that God loves you more than all that other stuff? Can't you rest and trust in that? Because that's who you are. That's where you start it. It's in that place where we realize we are God's, we are the beloved. We can take care of stuff that God has given us to do today, and in that, rest, and to know that's enough.

Worry is one way of expressing the energy that is in our lives. Something is amiss or something we want to do, something we want to affect. When we worry, however, what we end up doing according to Jesus, and science, and all, is that we end up taking all that energy and it freezes our ability to work in the present because we are stuck in the fear of the future. Jesus gives an alternative to that, strive, he says, "Strive, don't worry, strive. Strive for the kingdom of God. Strive for the things that bless. Strive for the things that bring life."

Strive is what ignites the present and enlivens us in it because we are invited to God's future. The reign of God. What are you doing with your energy to the degree that we focus it on the things that just go round and round, we become less and less effective, our bodies absorb the stress of stuff that doesn't belong to us to the degree that we are able to strive and to give our focus and our energy to the things of God. Now that begins to enliven, embolden, encourage.

In worship, we come and we acknowledge that we are part of something larger.

A part of what we do this morning as we have the number of quotes, and I know a number of you have been saying you'll write them down or take them pictures with your camera, it's wonderful, I'd love to see them on Facebook. I want you to also know, though, that we have them on a couple of sheets of paper for life groups or personal discussion. We ran out after the first service, we've made some more if you'd like to get a hard copy of those, it's there for that as well.

As you strive, there is something to do with all that energy. Henri Nouwen once said, "One way to pray in a fear-filled world is to choose love over anxiety." Choose love over anxiety. We choose love when we choose to do the thing that we have been given. We choose anxiety when we don't get to do the thing that we've been given because we're too distracted by something else that's in the future.

When we come to worship, when we reorient ourselves to this larger thing that God has given us to do, when we hear the invitation, when we give ourselves to the work of love, then we are able to respond to what God has given us to do today, here, now. When we take away all those other things out of that basket that really don't belong to us, what we discover, there are some significant things in our basket to do. It probably has to do with the person you're going to be seeing, talking to throughout this day.

Tomorrow morning, will you be available for the good word? Will you be available to pull off to the side of the road for whatever need is there? Will you be available to give a word of encouragement? Are you going to be so distracted that you're going to go right by and miss what God has given you to do today? I expect that the answer will be in a large degree, "To what degree did we do the work and choose love over anxiety?"

The good news is this, there really is a reign of God. There really is something coming on. There really is this will of God that is coming to heal, and to restore, and to bless, and to give life, to redeem. There really is something that speaks into the gaps in the canyons of life. To speak love into it, to be present, and in so doing, become the presence of God. That really is the work that we've been given. Will you be available for it? It has a lot to do with, what are you worried about? What will you give yourself to?

This week, may you give yourself to the work of love. As you do, may you experience the peace of God, not the peace where we block out all the problems and the storms of the world, but the peace that comes in the midst of them because we know we are God's beloved. Because we are God's beloved, we can function, we can work, we can live with strength, and courage, and grace.