Today’s Daily Office Gospel reading presents us with Jesus’ teaching about anxiety (Luke 12. 22-31). It opens with these words, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” Jesus encourages us to consider the ravens that God feeds, and the lilies that God clothes. Jesus teaches us not to strive for what we will eat or drink because God knows what we need. Instead, Jesus says, we should “strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given you as well.”
The Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter prays, “ . . . you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding . . .” Finally, the Prayer for our Country, found in the Book of Common Prayer, says, “In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail.”
Jesus’ words and these prayers speak about trust. Our job is to walk God’s path. God’s job is to provide what we need. Sounds great! However, I live in the real world – a world where manna does not rain down from heaven and water does not pour forth from a rock. I live in a world where worrying about just surviving is the reality for many people. So, how do we proclaim this gospel of hope and trust in the real world?
It is hard to trust. I will be the first to admit it. It is hard. When your back is against the wall, when you wonder how you are going to live, it is tempting to give up hope, to fall into the pit of despair. It is easy to become angry, to deny God’s existence, to believe that no one really cares. In moments like that, how do we proclaim the gospel of hope? Well, the only way to do it with any integrity is to speak from personal experience. Sure, we can speak of the biblical record, of how time and again God stepped in to rescue God’s people, to lead them to a new place, to provide for them. We can speak of the fact that God did not remove the difficulties, but rather provided a way through them. God provided the strength to endure, to survive, and even to thrive in the midst of the struggles. That is why the story is so compelling and endures to this day. It provides hope.
Ultimately, though, that hope needs to move from words we read in the Bible to expectation that we experience in the present. We have to believe that the same God who rescued the ancient Israelites will rescue us as well. We have to believe that Jesus is right – that the same God who provides for the raven and the lily will provide for us as well. But, who can proclaim that message unless they have experienced that reality for themselves? Who can ask someone else to trust who hasn’t themselves trusted? Authentic proclamation comes when we speak from our own experience, when we can say that we have stared anxiety in the face and, despite the temptation, have not lost hope, have not lost trust, have not lost the believe that regardless of what happens, God is with us.
Jesus’ message is simple. Keep your focus on living according to the values that Jesus has taught us. Keep believing that love is the most powerful force that exists, that compassion is the principle that will see us through, that justice is the guide that will shape our life decisions. When we live lives of love, compassion, and justice, life may not take the shape that we anticipated. However, a life lived in pursuit of the kingdom of God, of God’s values, will be a life worth living, a life where what we have is enough.