Trust in God’s love for you and the creation; all the rest will come from that.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Day of Thanksgiving, year B
Text: Matthew 6:25-33
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Maybe Jesus didn’t have a dog.
When he wanted to encourage the crowds not to worry and to trust God for all things, he spoke of birds. They don’t plant seeds or harvest them or store them. But look, Jesus said, God feeds them. He spoke of flowers who don’t need to make clothing to look beautiful. God clothes them.
And of course he was saying that if God takes care of them, God will take care of you. But he also seems to suggest that they’re not worried about that.
Now, we don’t know about the inner life of birds. Do they worry where the next seeds will come from? And do flowers have feelings? Some studies suggest plants respond to music, to tone of voice. Do they have anxiety about whether they’ll burst forth in beautiful flower?
But if Jesus had a dog, this Gospel would make perfect sense to me.
So, I give you our little friend, Maggie.
Consider the Maggie of the house, Jesus could have said. She doesn’t make her meals (though if she ran freely, she’d try for a squirrel). But she looks to the food-giver, Mary, with hope and expectation each time 6 comes around on the clock. She trusts food will be given, and she joyfully eats it.
And look at Maggie, Jesus could have said. She doesn’t make blankets to keep herself warm at night. But when the couch-reader, Joseph, heads up to the loft to read, she joyfully runs ahead and leaps onto the blanket, ready to warmly lean into legs that are obviously there just for her.
And consider this, Jesus could say: for Maggie, every suggested activity is instantly her favorite thing of all time. Is she fully asleep, enjoying a nap? No matter, if the humans are preparing for a walk. Immediately that’s the longed-for activity, the long-anticipated joy.
Consider her, Jesus could have said. What if you didn’t fret about food or clothes, but simply and joyfully took life as it came?
This isn’t a silly exercise. Jesus seriously wants you to think about flowers and birds and your life with God, and find a way to let your worrying go.
I definitely want to listen to Jesus here. I want to look at the world, at our country, at the lives of neighbors and loved ones, even at my own life, and say, “It will all be well.” But it’s hard.
But Maggie daily shows what I think Jesus invites you to see: she lives her life in the moment, glad of company, glad of food, glad of warmth, glad of walks. If she worries about tomorrow, I don’t see it. If we come home after 10 minutes away we are greeted with the fullest joy she can muster, exactly as when we come home after hours away.
Of course birds and flowers and Maggie – feel free to insert the name of your favorite dog here – birds and flowers and Maggie have it easy, we say. Someone always provides. They may not worry about their food or clothing or shelter, but in the real world, someone has to worry about that.
But clearly Jesus knows that, that we have responsibilities and concerns beyond that of our fellow creatures on this planet. So if Jesus knows that, and still says, “have a look at them and consider what they’re up to,” maybe it’s worth considering.
Jesus invites you to seek to live as God’s non-human creatures do, and trust God’s goodness.
Maybe that’s the blessing of a Day of Thanksgiving. To remember to say, “thank you God, that this morning I breathed and saw the sun.” “Thank you, God, that today someone smiled at me.” “Thank you, God, that there are people who are working hard to bring mercy and justice to our world.” “Thank you, God, that I’m sometimes blessed to work with that, too.” To look at this life and say, “Thank you, God, for this food, for this rain, for this bed, for this home, for this neighbor, for that song, for this worship, for that joy, for this moment of happiness.”
Jesus invites you to lean into God’s love and look at all God is doing for the life of the world, and for your life. Even if it’s as simple as a warm fire on a cold night. Or the cashier being kind to you at checkout.
When Jesus says that worrying won’t help you add even a single hour to your lifespan, obviously that’s true.
But what if he means this: appreciate every hour you have. Singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, as he neared an untimely death from cancer, was asked what he now knew, facing death, that he’d tell others. He said, “Enjoy every sandwich.”
All of the problems Jesus says not to worry about won’t go away. You and all people need to eat. You and all people need clothes. You and all people need shelter. You and all people need love. You and all people need safety and peace with justice. Jesus just suggests that if you keep your eyes open to what is good right now, your hope fixed on the love of God in Christ that cannot be taken from you or your neighbor or the creation, all those problems won’t overwhelm your heart and mind.
That’s the true lesson of the birds and flowers and Maggie.
They all live, and even the animals do work for that living. Whether bird or fish or dog or elephant, all go about their day do what they need to do. But perhaps not overwhelmed by worry and anxiety.
That’s what Jesus offers you. The work still remains for you, for me, for the world, to make this a place where food and clothing and shelter and love and safety are shared by all.
But while you do that, try and live like Maggie, Jesus might say. Do your thing faithfully. But receive each moment with joy. Live in trust that you are loved, and all are loved. Be grateful for each moment that is yours to live, to love. Enjoy every sandwich.
And for all this, today, and all days, give thanks.
In the name of Jesus. Amen