Do you ever worry about things? Or is there anyone you know who is a worrier? One daughter wrote about her mom who was a worrier. Whenever they went on a family vacation, it seemed that her mom would suddenly startle and say, “Oh dear! I think I left the iron on.” (This was in the days when most women ironed.) And almost every time, the family would turn around and go back to check. But as far as she knew, not once was the iron plugged in.
It continued until the daughter was about 14 years old. At that time, as they headed for the lake, her mom gasped, “I just know I left the iron on.” Her father didn’t say a word. He just pulled over on the shoulder of the road, got out, opened the trunk, and handed his wife her iron. (Doc’s Daily Chuckles, .)
Are you a worrier? Do you know someone who is? Maybe you need to know the peace of God.
A commercial airline pilot on one jarring occasion made a particularly bad landing. The wheels of the big jet hit the runway with a jarring thud. Afterward, the airline had a policy which required that the pilot stand at the door while the passengers exited. He was to give each of them a smile and say, “Thanks for flying with us today.” In light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment, but no one seemed annoyed.
Finally everyone had gotten off except for one little old lady walking with a cane. She approached the pilot and asked, “Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?”
“Why no ma’am, what is it?” said the pilot bravely.
“Did we land,” she asked, “or were we shot down?” (David B. Wilhelm, MD., RX for the Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), pp. 24-30.
Maybe you have had days like that. Days when it felt like you were shot down. Even worse, maybe things are going quite well for you, actually. People tell you how lucky you are and yet you are plagued by a worrying fear you can’t quite identify.
This morning’s gospel passage is part of what is known as the Farewell Discourse. A worried disciple has asked Jesus what will happen next, what will happen when you are no longer with us? Jesus was preparing his disciples for living in the world without his physical presence. These words were spoken by Christ on Maundy Thursday. In a matter of hours the disciples would have their world flipped upside down. This was the night before Jesus went to the cross. And he’s trying to prepare them for the kind of challenges they will have to face. Jesus was telling his disciples that he was about to leave. Already they were meeting behind closed doors for fear of their lives. He knew what they needed most, to be assured that things were going to be okay. And so he says, “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Jesus told them not to worry although they were about to experience all kinds of adversity.
We read this passage during the Easter season not to create more anxiety, but rather to hear Jesus’ command to live in the peace of God that grounds and comforts us.
You and I may not be facing the challenges that the disciples of Jesus faced. They died in amphitheaters with lions, by swords, and on crosses. But we also walk around burdened by many issues of life, everyday we hear of violence and conflict on the news. We may unsure about how we’re going to pay the bills and still save for our kid’s education, concerned about losing our job, or finding a job; anxious about how our relationships are going. The question is, are we worriers or are we warriors?
Whatever our issues are, life happens, and when it does it sometimes sends our world into a tail spin. My faithful mother always said, “This too, shall pass.” She understood that our problems here on earth are temporary. Let Jesus speak peace into your situation. Let God fight your battles and heal your wounds. Courage is a rare commodity in todays world. The early followers of Jesus gained their courage from the presence of Christ’s Spirit within them . And that’s good news for us. They received courage and they received comfort.
We can trust that we are in God’s arms in life and in death.
Whenever I hear of the death of a friend or a loved one, I pray “May he or she rest in God’s arms.” For me that is the most comforting image I can imagine, being safely held in God’s arms when life has ended. Perhaps you have another or a different image of eternity. But basically we have faith that we will be with God forever.
Music professor A. J. Showalter received some sad news. Two of his former students had just lost their wives. Both of these men were in despair, and looked to their old music professor for comfort.
Showalter had always been deeply devoted to his students. He had no comforting words of his own, so he turned to Scripture, where he found the Hebrew Bible verse from Deuteronomy 33:27 that says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies.”
Out of this verse, Showalter wrote a chorus to send to his students. You will recognize it:
“Leaning, leaning, Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”(Robert J. Morgan. From this Verse, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998).
Jesus did not tell his disciples that they would never have troubles. What he did was promise them the possibility of peace in the midst of struggles. He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort them. They and we can be warriors in the struggles of life and not worriers. Perhaps you are struggling today with some problem. You need to know that God’s Holy Spirit is with you to give you courage and comfort. Go and lean on the everlasting arms of God.
Please pray with me by joining in singing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”. You will find an insert in your bulletin with the words/music.