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Don't Worry--Be Happy!

by Frank Schaefer
Mat. 6:25-34

Isn't it strange that despite the tremendous achievements of modern civilization we are more worried about our lives than ever before? Take the advances in the medical sciences for instance: problems with appendices, gall bladders, heart, infectious diseases, and even cancer can be treated more successfully today than ever before. Or think about all the security devices: fire-alarms, insurance against all sorts of catastrophes and eventualities, inspections to make transportation safe, air and water clean, hospitals antiseptic, restaurant food healthy and, my personal favored: checking account overdraft-protection. All of these things are designed to allow us to breathe easier, be less worried about life.

Yet, the late 20th century has been dubbed the "age of anxiety" because people in the Western hemisphere, including you and I, tend to worry about our lives and future more than ever before.

Perhaps that's why Bobbie McFerrin's song entitled "Don't worry, be happy!" became such a hit. Remember the song? I figure it must have been the words, certainly couldn't have been the music that made it successful. People just realize that they need some remedy, some way to deal with their worries. But does this message really bring a remedy? "Don't worry--be happy." That sounds easy, but how exactly do we do that? Try to shout after the guy who just fell out the window of the 87th story of the Empire State building: "Hey, don't worry, be happyyyyyyyy.............." It seems to me that the cure for our worries need to come at a deeper level.

Today, we express our thanks, our gratitude to God for the harvest, for providing for us, for caring for us, for getting us through another year. We can tell the story of God’s faithfulness, of God’s love, of God’s care, and we can tell it exactly because we are here--alive and well! We who are present are evidence of the goodness of God.

Allow me to ask you a personal question. Did you at any time during the last year worry? Did you at some point feel that you may not make it? We all know that life can be living hell on earth. There are marital problems, problems at the workplace, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, an illness, situations which seem impossible.

And yet, we are here today to give thanks to our loving and caring God! Some of us have gone through tremendous struggles, and you are here; others may go through difficult times right now, but all of us agree that thanking God is important on this Thanksgiving Day.

It almost seems when we say "thank you" to God--even in the midst of a storm--our worries subside. Perhaps this is so because we may remember how God has helped us in times past as our Psalmist does in Verse 3: "The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced." Or maybe thanking God allows us to focus away from ourselves and to open our eyes to what is going on around us. This is what Jesus is doing when he looks about and sees a couple of birds in a nearby tree. Jesus says: don’t worry. Nothing has ever been gained by worrying. Instead, "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?"

As we soak in Jesus’s words, we start to feel safer, the voice of fear is squelched, instead a feeling of gratitude is gradually swelling in our soul. And soon we are saying: "Yes, if God takes such good care of a bird and a flower, he will take care of me too. After all, I am one of God’s creatures too!"

St. Paul speaks of the benefits of the attitude of gratitude in the following manner: (Verse 2:1) "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity."

Have you ever met someone who is a truly grateful person, someone who takes nothing for granted and is thankful for anything you do for them. Well, I do know a number of those grateful folks. They are people I like to hang around. They are peaceable people, people that have many friends. Well that’s the kind of attitude I want to have.

You know, when it really comes down to it, we shouldn’t take anything for granted in this life. Every new day God gives us is a gift, every person, every possession, everything God sends our way is a blessing and a gift from God. And even if God didn't do anything else for us in this lifetime, we should be eternally grateful for our salvation through Jesus Christ; for the fact that God decided to forgive us and make us children of God. That’s the greatest gift of all times!

And if I have been made a child of the most high God, what else should I fear? Problems? Hunger? Death? It almost seems that an attitude of gratitude is the antithesis to fear and worries. As we are freed from worries, as our gratitude to God overflows, we will find ourselves able to reach out to others; to people that may be worry-stricken, to the poor, the needy, those of us who don’t have enough food to get around.

What does reaching out to the poor and needy have to do with Thanksgiving? Our Scripture text from Joel knows why it is important, namely because poverty and hunger is always a reality among people in many parts of the world, and because God is a compassionate, caring God who has promised to make good the sufferings of his children. In Joel 2:25 the LORD promises: "I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you." And in Verse 2:26: "You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God..."

That’s exactly the reason why today’s offering will go to LCCM (a local food bank), so that we can be a part of Christ’s ongoing revolution that turns people from worry-warts into thankful people, who will then be freed to help others to get there as well.

Let us not only be people who know how to celebrate Thanksgiving once a year, but let us be Thanksgiving people--people who have an attitude of gratitude. Amen.