From the District Superintendent

Sufficient Unto the Day

Posted 15 September, 2020 by Rev. Doug Forrester

"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34

           Matthew 6:25-34 is one of my very favorite passages in the Bible, mainly because I emphatically need to apply its lesson in my life, as I imagine you do as well, especially now. I love this teaching of Christ, although I have always struggled in its application. "Therefore I tell you", Jesus begins, "Do not worry about your life." For years, I attempted to live this text as a response to a commandment: "Do not worry...or else!"  So then, each time I would catch myself worrying about anything, I would try to instantly stop, lest I offend my Lord by violating one of his teachings. This, of course, caused me to worry about my worrying, which meant I had somehow developed a way to sin on two levels, and it was down the rabbit hole from there.

           The second way in which I would misapply this scripture is this: I would reach the end of this teaching, where Jesus proclaims: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own," or as the King James Version translates it, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." I would reach Jesus' conclusion of his discourse on worry, and I would find myself worrying even more because Jesus just said, right there in the Bible, that there were going to be even more things to worry about tomorrow. "Tell me Jesus!" I would think, "What is going to happen tomorrow? Tell me so that I can begin working on it, or at least, worrying about it today!"

           Which is, of course, why he will not tell me.

           When we read the text more slowly, in greater detail, and we accept the invitation to approach our worries in exactly the way that Jesus prescribes, we actually do consider the flowers and the birds and God's provision for them, and we do not skip over Jesus' nice little nature lesson so that we might rush to what we deem as the more pressing matters of our own lives. We do this because the flowers and the birds are not merely window dressing but the backdrop against which this text makes sense.

           "Jesus," I say, "Help me. I worry about the future of your Church on earth. How can we reverse so many years of decline in congregational participation in the Western hemisphere?"

           "Look!" Jesus says, "Cardinals! Both male and female. On that low branch, just over there."

           "Right..." I say, "And what about our United Methodist Church, and the uncertain future we face? I feel so helpless sometimes."

           "Look, just up the road there!" It is a mother goose crossing with her goslings," he says.

           "But then there is my family," I say. "Ellen will be heading to college next year and Claire is already in middle school! It is all going by so fast, too fast. I am not ready for this, Lord."

           "MMM. Smell that," he says, "It's honeysuckle."

           "Yes...I know. But what about the pandemic, not to mention the future of our nation, and the future of our world, Jesus? It's keeping me up at night."

           "Are those gardenias?" he says, "So beautiful and fragrant."

           Finally, I have had enough, "ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION, JESUS?"

           And finally he responds, "Are you?"

           Friends, our God surrounds us with evidence of our God's provision, evidence of our God's lovingkindness, evidence of our God's presence with us. Flowers blossom, leaves explode in a rich palate of colors, the air is filled with the birds and their songs. The seasons change, different, yet somehow the same each year. The sun shines, the rain falls, the harvest comes, grace abounds.

           Yet too often we miss it, because we are so self-absorbed, so incessantly transfixed with our own worry, with doing it all ourselves, that we elbow God out of the picture, when it is God, and only God, who can show us the way to abundant life. We drive past the exit, we miss the turn, we cross the intersection, unable to remember whether or not the light was green, all because we are so crushingly folded in upon ourselves, worrying about today, worrying about tomorrows that may never come.

           And to this, our Savior replies, "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?"

           Put simply, Jesus says, "If I wanted perpetual stress and misery for your life, I could have simply left you alone, to your own devices, without my ever having to carry a cross. But I haven't, have I?"

           Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. The God of love is with us, now and always, and we are not alone.    

Grace and Peace,