August 7, 2022
Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 or Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 or Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22 (12b)
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12 (13-19)
Luke 12:(32-34) 35-40 (41-48)
Fear and anxiety can exert a powerful influence over our lives.
Like many people, I have some common phobias—I’m afraid of things like heights and snakes—but I also have some deeper fears that sometimes get in the way of living in the moment, like fear of failure or not being well thought of. Of course, it’s completely normal to have fears, and often they help us to avoid harm, but undue fear and worry can sometimes impede and even paralyze us as we navigate relationships and life situations.
The opening line of today’s Gospel reading really caught my attention: “Do not be afraid, little flock” (Lk 12:32). Luke wrote his Gospel for a community that had a lot to be afraid of. Even if they were not immediately at risk, they were at least aware that Christians were being ostracized and persecuted. Jesus doesn’t tell us that bad things won’t happen, but he reminds us that God’s care goes with us even in times of stress or suffering. God doesn’t just provide for us in some remote, impersonal way. No, we are the “little flock” and caring for us is God’s delight! Indeed, Jesus declares, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32).
The words of Jesus are meant to encourage and reassure us. Stop worrying, he tells us, and focus on what’s truly important. Don’t be afraid to let go of things you don’t need. Share with others even if you don’t know how your gift will be used. How freeing is that?
Likewise, when our spirits are unburdened from fear and anxiety, we are free to embrace healthy ways of preparing for the coming of God’s reign. Letting go of fear and worry gives us the space to get ready for that day calmly and in the context of normal activities, even if that coming should happen unexpectedly.
Yes, Jesus counsels us to be prepared, but not to whip ourselves into a frenzy, engage in neurotic behavior, or get involved in fruitless speculation. We should get properly dressed, make sure our lamps are lit (12:35), then go about our daily duties, ready for the master’s return. And guess what? It will be God’s delight to turn the tables and wait on us! “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them” (12:37).
Mary Oliver’s poem, “I Worried,” captures much of the spirit of Jesus’ words to us today:
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,
A Hymn for Today: “Where Your Treasure Is”
Marty Haugen is one of the most prolific writers of congregational song in North America today. His work is deeply ecumenical, liturgical, and biblical, and strongly connected to social implications of the Gospel. His writing reflects his background in the American Lutheran Church, his ministry in Roman Catholic and Lutheran congregations, and his current membership in the United Church of Christ. This song, based on today’s Gospel text and on verses that immediately precede it, is paired with a tender musical setting that he wrote for it. Haugen’s tune conveys a sense of encouragement and reassurance. To hear a recording, click here.
Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.
All that you possess will never set you free.
Seek the things that last; come and learn from me.
Where your treasure is, your heart shall be.
What do you gain from all your worry,
What you should eat or what to wear?
There is no peace in stress or hurry.
Do you not know that you are held within God’s care?
Look at the ravens high above you.
They do not work their whole life through.
And yet God feed them and protects them.
So how much more will God protect and care for you?
Behold the lilies in their splendor.
In grace and beauty are they dressed,
And yet so soon their bloom is faded.
So how much more will those who look to God be blessed?
Do not fear, little flock,
for God delights to give you the blessed reign of God.
Give your possessions to the needy;
gain a treasure that will not fade.
Text: Luke 12:22-34; Marty Haugen, b. 1950, © 2000, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tune: What do you gain from all your worry
Image Credit: Letting Go, Creative Commons
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
To receive these weekly reflections by email, please send a message to email@example.com and type “Lectionary” in the subject line.