Surely, God is my salvation; I will trust, and I will not be afraid: for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and has become my salvation.
Isaiah 12:2 (NRSV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you
will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)
She is now 96 years old, this wonderful lady whom I’ve known almost half my life. When we met, 30 years ago almost to the day, she was celebrating her 66th birthday, and I had recently turned 36. Now I am exactly the age she was then...my, how time flies (whether you’re having fun or not). When first we met, I was her newly appointed pastor, and Jane was one of “my” parishioners. Now, we are just two old friends, though the faith we share is still our primary connection. Last week, I spent a happy half hour on the phone with her, ostensibly so that I could wish her a “Happy Birthday!” - which I did, indeed, very much want to do; but I confess that I also just wanted to hear her voice again, and to see if she had any pearls of wisdom to offer for the strange times in which we live. I was not disappointed! Her voice is still strong and clear, and her mind is as sharp as it ever was. And she did have some wisdom to offer, in her inimitable way. When I asked her how she was getting along in the Time of Pandemic, she replied:
“Pretty well, thank you. Of course I don’t have a lot to do...so many of my friends are gone now that I don’t have a whole lot of folks to do things with - but of course, I couldn’t do most of those things now, anyway,” she laughed. “I’m happy with where I’m living; my children came to see me for my birthday and we talked through the window, which was nice. I try to remember what my mother always said to me: Live in the present. No need to worry about yesterday; your sins are forgiven. No need to worry about tomorrow; you can’t do anything about it yet, and the Lord will be with you tomorrow, too. Live in today.” I can’t promise that I got all that right word for word, but that was the gist of it.
Though I never met Jane’s mother, her voice is still heard through the way Jane lives - in the present. Her mother’s faith is still evident in the trust Jane so plainly puts in the Lord, a trust she shares openly and cheerfully, with no unease and no pretense. She’s a natural evangelist, is Jane. I’ve always admired her for that. She has a no-nonsense, joy-filled approach to life that I can only hope and pray to emulate. She’s a personal reminder that there’s a big difference between worrying about tomorrow and being as prepared for it as we can reasonably hope to be. If we waste our energy worrying, we’ll have none left for preparation. Jesus was very much in favor of preparation (check out Matthew 26:1-13), but he was dead set against worrying. I often saw Jane well-prepared, but I cannot recall ever seeing her worried.
As I listened to Jane repeating her mother’s wise counsel, I could hear the words of a young NPR commentator, quoting her own mother: “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life gets hard.” I could also hear the command of Jesus in Matthew 6: Do. Not. Worry. About. Tomorrow. That’s a command many of us are finding it hard to obey right now; and yet, there’s an invitation lying just beneath the command - Jesus’ invitation to trust, on a day by day basis, the One who cares even for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field; the One to whom we are (amazingly enough) of greater value. And as I heard Jane outlining her gratitude for “all she has to thankful for,” I could hear the reassuring voice of Isaiah: Surely, God is my salvation; I will trust, and I will not be afraid. The words of Jesus the Savior and of Isaiah the Prophet are words worth remembering, and they are words to live by...but it helps a lot to have a brother or sister in Christ who serves as a living example. If I were to tell Jane how much her words meant to me, I’ve got a feeling she might say, “Thanks, but I’m just passing on what I received.” And if she did, she’d be right. What else are we here for? What else are we supposed to be doing (no matter what else we’re doing)? And what better time could we have been given to do it than now, when real faith is so badly needed? Thanks be to God for the daily opportunity to share what we have received, what is of greatest importance: God is our salvation. No need to worry about tomorrow. The very best reason to live in the present: Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us. Every. Single. Day.
His Eye Is On The Sparrow, vs.2, TFWS, #2146
"Let not your heart be troubled,"
his tender word I hear,
and resting on his goodness,
i lose my doubts and fears;
though by the path he leadeth
but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.
I sing because I'm happy,
i sing because I'm free,
for his eye is on the sparrow,
and I know he watches me.
God of every today, tune our minds in to your promise to care for us, every day you give us. Give us wisdom and courage to pass on what we have first received: your unfailing grace. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Susan Pate Greenwood