Psalm 91 & 1 Timothy 6:6-19
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
September 25, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redemmer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about worrying.
This week I have been a worrying mess, a friend of mine is worried about his brother, another individual I know is worried about their health, and all the while the people experiencing homelessness that I minister to in Waltham are beginning to worry about the impending colder nights.
Worry is surrounding us. Just open the Boston Globe or check it out online. Here are just a few of the headlines I read this week:
“While you were sleeping: A man was shot and killed in Dorchester, the city’s 24th homicide this year. . . People rioted and looted in Charlotte, N.C., overnight, upset about the fatal shooting of a black man by a black police officer who said 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott had a gun and posed a threat. Demonstrators destroyed police cars and injured 12 officers, including one hit in the face by a rock ... It’s happened again: An airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, killed four medical workers just one day after another destroyed a Red Crescent convoy carrying humanitarian supplies” And “Shades of Tamerlan Tsarnaev present in N.Y. bombing suspect”.
So I worry.
Worry can get the best of us. Mary Oliver wrote this beautiful poem about worrying entitled “I Worried”
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
From Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Worry is a theme that appears and reappears throughout the Bible. Our scripture from Matthew last week ended in with the statement of how no one can serve two masters and if you were to continue reading it goes:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, 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 your worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
Well we know the answer, no, worry cannot add a single hour to our span of life but worry is just simply part of our lives.
So what can we do about?
We look for comfort. Just as a when a child is worried they look to be wrapped in the loving arms of their mother or father. We too look to be wrapped in love, wrapped in assurance.
Our Psalm for today is a Psalm of reassurance, a psalm about trust in God as protector. The Psalmist writes the first 13 verses from another person’s point of view. Listen again to verses 1-3: “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “Me refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler”.
Then at the end of Psalm in verse 14-16, the Psalmist writes as if it is the voice of God:
“Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.”
There are seven verbs here depicting God’s assurance: God will deliver, God will protect, God will answer, God will be with you and honor you, God will satisfy and show.
I must say when I have been worried I am looking for any of these actions words by God. At times I sit and plead and beg for God’s assurance or God’s answer… And sometimes I feel as though it falls on deaf ears.
But this week I witnessed God’s assurance. My friend has been taking care of his brother who is struggling with some mental health issues. His brother needs help and the best way for him to receive help right now is to participate in an inpatient mental health program. But my friend’s brother is terrified and begged my friend not to leave him. Because he is independent, it is his choice whether he says or goes. So the other day my friend went with his brother to the program and stayed there for several hours. While my friend’s brother meet with some clinicians, he called me and asked for some prayers. He was worried his brother would not stay. I happened to be walking with my dog, Charlie when my friend called and as soon as we hung up I just yelled up to the heaven, God Please Show UP!
I found out a little later that day that my friend’s brother did stay at the inpatient program and he was able to leave. God showed up.
The Psalmist writes, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust”. “Believers are those who seek shelter, refuge, and protection in God…[the] concept of refuge is the concept of trust, confidence, and reliance. In other words, to turn to God as refuge is both to seek protection (forgiveness, blessing, hope, etc.) in God--and it is also to trust in God, to have faith that God will come through.”
To have faith.
To have faith reminds me of the last thing Don Keene always said to me at the end of our visits “keep the faith.”
In 1 Timothy we are told to “Fight the good fight of the faith”. I take this to mean, not about going out on religious crusades but rather fight the fight of faith in your heart. There are times when I have felt God did not show up and I begin to question my faith and my worry and doubt took over my heart. But we are called to fight against worry and doubt to hold onto our faith.
Faith is believing God is here, that God is bigger than our imagination and thus can hold our worry. That God does not take it personally when we question our faith, or even question God. Faith is realizing we are limited. We are not perfect or all knowing.
God created us and thus created worry because worrying is as human as our breathing. The Apostle Paul knew this and wrote letters to communities helping them through the tough and anxious times. Paul’s letters to Timothy are ones of legacy. Paul is passing down “the wisdom accumulated through a life of mission, ministry and above all, suffering for the gospel”. Paul suffered, he was imprisoned for his teachings on Christ and I would guess he must have worried. But Paul had faith. And faith is the belief that beyond our worrying we can make it through, that God is by our side ready to guide us if we listen. Faith is believing there is something greater than you or I. And for us that something is our Triune God.
So my friends, “Fight the good fight of the faith” hold onto your faith as you read the newspaper headlines about another black man being killed, another police officer harmed in the line of duty, another act of terrorism and ongoing war. Hold onto your faith as you question why bad things happen. Hold onto your faith as your worry.
Worry can get the best of us. But today I invite you to NOT let your worry get the best of you but instead keep the faith.
Just as the water catches our rocks of worry so too will God. And just as the petals stay afloat so too can your faith.
Have faith my friends.
 Mitchell, Margaret M. “The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy” Oxford Annotated Bible, 2091