Giving Thanks in an Anxious Age
| Matthew 6:25-33
||Sun, October 12, 1997
Rev. Ed Searcy
|It is one of those thirty second commercials that slips into your consciousness. Scenes of
misty gentle hillsides ... old world castles ... waves pounding a rocky shoreline ... a small
village ... cattle lazing in the fields ... children playing. At first you wonder where it might be. Soon the lilting music gives you a hint. Then a deep, gentle voice says it ... "Scotland".
Perhaps it is a tourist ad, you think. But, no. This is an advertisment for an investment
company. Then the ad is over. Nothing about investing is ever mentioned. It is all about
trust. The key to trusting this company, the ad suggests, is that it is loosely related to
Scotland. And, as everyone knows, Scots' are trustworthy. Or that seems to be the gist of it.
It must be working. People must be investing. Because the ad has been running for quite
awhile. Perhaps Jesus might want to get in touch with the advertising agency that created this
commercial. Just look at what he has to pitch this morning. If you thought that selling
investments was difficult in this market, you haven't seen anything yet: "Do not worry about
your life, what you will eat or what you will drink ... or what you will wear." This is going
to be a hard sell! Listen to us. Our air waves are full of worried voices. Worried about our
standard of living. Worried about jobs. Worried about retirement savings and pensions.
Worried, worried, worried. It is everywhere. And this in one of the world’s wealthiest
nations. Thank heavens that on this one weekend of the year everyone stops for a blessed rest
and gives thanks for what is rather than worrying about what may not be. Then Jesus pipes
up with his impossible sermon: "Do not worry about your life" . It would be hilarious if he
wasn't so serious. We want to ask him for a little more advice: "Precisely how would you
have us stop worrying Jesus? What would you have us do when we wake up in the middle
of the night in a cold sweat wondering how to pay the bills? Worry beads, perhaps?" We
know why the root word for 'anxiety' is 'to choke'. Worried anxiety chokes the life out of us.
We want to stop worrying and live. And you and I both know that it is just not that easy. Oh,
we can manage to forget our worries over a Thanksgiving Feast. Sure enough, come Tuesday
morning the anxious demons will be back ... and the talk shows will give voice to a cacophany
So imagine Jesus sitting down with his advertising agency. One junior writer pops up: "I've
got it ... remember that song 'Don't worry, be happy'? We run that music under some scenes
of people winning the lottery, having a great time on a yacht, eating some fabulous meal.
That's what people expect ... win the big one and you'll never have to worry again!" Jesus just
shakes his head in dismay. So another ad executive makes her suggestion: "I think that we
should go for the ironic touch. I mean, everyone knows that this campaign is kind of a joke
... why not poke some fun at ourselves. Lots of baby-boomers remember Alfred E. Newman
on every Mad Magazine cover saying "What, me worry?". What about it Jesus ... no one
expects it from you! It will be huge." Jesus just looks at the ceiling in disbelief. This is when
the senior executive steps in. "No", he says, "I've seen Jesus' copy. It will be great ... we have
a shot of a flock of birds against a bright blue sky with Jesus' voice over - 'look at the birds
of the air ... look at how their heavenly Father feeds them ...are you not of more value than
they?' - and then we cut to a field of lilies in full bloom ... Jesus voice comes in again:
'Consider the lilies of the field ... even Solomon was never dressed in such finery ... surely
God will dress you finer than the grass which is burned in the oven'." Around the table heads
nod in approval. "Then we cut to a happy circle of plump little children and their families ...
all gathered around Jesus. Three words dominate the screen as the picture fades: 'trust in
God'. Trust me, it's a winner."
Now Jesus speaks up. "No ... that's not quite what I have in mind. Why do you think that they
use grass to fuel the ovens in their kitchens? Because there is no wood to burn, that’s why!
We can’t end this ad with an impossibly happy picture. The peasants that become my
disciples live in an impoverished ... over-taxed ... terribly anxious time. They spend their days
scrambling to find their next meal. That's the picture you have to show at the end of the ad."
The advertising experts around the table look on, stunned. They have never heard of such a
peculiar commercial. "And those final words on the screen ... let's have them say 'seek God's
Kingdom'." There is silence. No one says a word. Finally the lowliest junior copy-writer
blurts out: "But Jesus, I don't get it. Whose going to buy the product? Whose going to be
persuaded that they have no need to worry based on that commercial?". "You're right",
responds Jesus, warming to the occasion. "Admittedly, our target market is a small one. Face
it, most people are absolutely convinced that the way to put an end to worry is to build up
assets, securities, investments. When it comes to giving up their useless little security
blankets for something far more trustworthy they wouldn't know a gift horse if it was staring
them in the mouth. No ... this campaign is aimed at the few who are beginning to have their
doubts about the line they are being fed. ‘Salt of the earth' is how I describe them. They are
tired of worrying ... tired of so many anxious days killing time when life is meant to be
enjoyed, celebrated, lived. In this ad let's give them a peek at God's new world that is
knocking at their door, just waiting to get in and turn their lives around. Then all it will take
them is a decision to trust their life to God ... to live each day in gratitude to God. I tell you,
once people discover that God's Kingdom is emerging within them and around them they
can’t help but stop worrying. Oh, the scramble for food and clothes continues. The birds and
lillies have to work hard every day to survive. But the scramble is different now. It is not
marked by complaining, worrying and whining any more ... instead everyday is an opportunity
for gratitude, trust and celebration. These people are a rare breed. They can be spotted a mile
away. We don't need to attract a very big market share to make a big difference in the world.
It's like the yeast in a loaf of bread ... like a little candle in the dark. All it takes is a few who live this new way ... who follow me. They are the only advertisments that God's Kingdom will
And here we are. We who have been attracted by Jesus’ ad campaign for the Kingdom come.
We who are convinced that there must be some other way to live than to worship at the altar
of the ‘Almighty Dollar’. It is surprising how soon we forget ... how easily we become
convinced that we really should be worried. The advertising budget of Jesus’ competition is
apparently endless ... and the worried takers are many. Yet, Jesus speaks the truth. We have
nothing to worry about. We are in God's hands. Imagine that. Thank God.