Occasionally – not very often, but occasionally –- the proper Lessons for a particular Sunday fit together so well, with one building upon another, that a very clear, consistent point is made. Not many complex thoughts, but one central teaching that we can all take home with us. This Sunday we have such Lessons, and the Collect, or prayer, for today even provides a kind of outline to take us there.
A few minutes ago we prayed, “Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us…” The prophet Isaiah might have written that prayer and his words today are full of thanksgiving to the God who had rescued his people from Exile:
“Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages…” (Isaiah 49) For Isaiah, the bringing of his people home from the long Exile in Babylon was just as great a miracle as their original delivery from slavery in Egypt.
They were to be brought out of the darkness of prison, fed along the way, and shielded from wind and sun just as their ancestors had been all those centuries ago in the desert. They were to be restored once again to the “Promised Land.” Even though they had feared that their God had forgotten them in their time of Exile, Isaiah writes, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16a)
Again, in the words of the Collect, Isaiah wanted them to “give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of God, and to cast all their care on God who certainly was showing that he cared for them!’ The Psalmist today shows us what it looks like to “cast all our care on God.” It looks like a child in the arms of a loving Mother:
“O Lord, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks/ I do not occupy myself with great matters/ or with things that are too hard for me/ But I still my soul and make it quiet/ like a child upon its mother’s breast/ my soul is quieted within me/ O Israel, wait upon the Lord, from this time forth for evermore.” (Psalm 131) Israel had waited on God in Exile, and God had delivered them…once again!
Today’s Collect goes on to say, “Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ…”
In today’s Epistle, St. Paul would have had every good reason to be filled with “faithless fears and worldly anxieties.” He was in a big fight with the church he had founded in Corinth. There were factions in the church. Some people were accusing Paul of not being very strong or effective as an apostle. They were even wondering if they should continue to follow him or turn to someone else. So Paul writes to them:
“Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself….it is the Lord who judges me.” (I Corinthians 4:1-4)
Paul was kept free from “faithless fears and worldly anxieties” by recognizing that he was not trying to please every member in the church at Corinth. He was trying to please God. And his confidence was that God loved him with a love which was immortal…and that no hassle, no conflict, no “clouds of this mortal life” could take from him that love which was able to save his soul.
Paul had learned that lesson from a Great Teacher from whom we heard in this morning’s Gospel, “Therefore, I tell you,” Jesus said, “ do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing…And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to the span of your life?”
“Therefore do not worry,..for it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25 passim)
So…what is the “one central point” made by all our Lessons today? The teaching, or message, the Church wants you to take home this week? Listen again to the Collect:
“Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord…”
In other words: God loves you with a love that will never end…a love that will not let you go! Be thankful for that love! And don’t worry so much! Don’t let the cares and occupations of you life overwhelm you. Give them to God…and see how much better he handles them than you do!
In other words: Strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well!