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written by Constance Morgenstern

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Worry Song

“If you want to understand something,” the saying goes, “teach it.”  As a writer, if anything bothers you, be sure to write about it.  This song and study are the work of a Christian writer/sometime teacher/longtime worrier, 3 ½ years into the project.

The main Bible text for “Worry Song” is Matthew 6:25-33, the lesson of the lilies and the sparrows from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  Read it—either from your own Bible or online.  As Jesus speaks on an expansive hillside, he tells those of us who worry to look at the birds.  God feeds them.  He invites the crowd’s attention to wild lilies, dressed so beautifully by God.  In fact, he says, their simple glory has more radiance than any robe of King Solomon’s.

Have you ever studied the textures of flower petals? As someone who loves taking close-up photos of flowers, I often try to capture the tiny sparkles in flower petals, that glitter like new snow.  I’m also totally fascinated by the intricacies of feathers, and how a 1-ounce sparrow in puffed-up feathers can survive sub-zero Wisconsin winters where food seems nonexistent.  But Jesus continues by saying that if God feeds and clothes even birds and lilies so wondrously, won’t he surely take care of us?  Towards the end of the passage, Jesus gives his prescription for worry:
to seek first the kingdom of God.

Perhaps a good start to fighting worry is to look up, and refocus our eyes (or cameras!) on God’s amazing creation.  For me, the shine of lilies and the self-healing design of feather fibers practically shout the cleverness and love of a great God. But, I can also tell you that I didn’t cry until I rewrote Stanza One with the ending “like me.”  It may not be enough to reflect on God’s love in a beautiful park or flower garden.  Remember again, in specifics, what God has done for you.

Stanza Two has been the killer.  It started with the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9 and 18-23), but branched off according to what I felt the Spirit telling me. What the Spirit convicts you of is between you and God, but I’ll tell you where I’ve gone with this.

In the Parable of the Sower, the Word of God is like seed that a farmer sows over different terrain.  Some of the seed falls among thorns, which choke any young seedlings and prevent a future harvest.  Jesus identifies the choking thorns as worldly worries and the lure of wealth.

I like the idea of worries as thorny weeds.  It brings home the idea that time and money spent because of worry are generally wasted.   Many of us longtime worriers can freely admit to that waste.

Here in Wisconsin, the word “thorn” makes me think of the Canada thistle—a tall, prickly affair with a long root that tends to remain in the ground and regrow the whole plant.   I think my worries are like that: They recur because I, as a rather clay-ish soil, have helped grip their roots.  And this sense of CLENCHING worries is not unique to meas I’ve discovered while talking to people about this song.

And here is the thought that made me want to change: the vision of myself as a chunk of pale, hard soillaced through with weed rootssitting like a rock in Christ’s hand.  Yeech!

As I said, I’m not sure that God means to convict every worrier with such an image of unworkability, so I’ve rewritten this verse many, many, many times.  What’s been funny is finding that I don’t remember quite so well what it is to be a hardcore worrier.  I’m not that person anymore.

I can simply say that I’m doing more things for God, while worrying less.  “Seeking first the kingdom” does seem to reduce worry!

Going back to garden imagery, I absolutely do imagine Christ as the willing gardener of Luke 13:6-9.  And I believe that where I let him address my thorn-infested soil, he'll go in with his hands if necessary to pull the thorns.   In compassion, he has faced thorns before.

I can especially hear Christ’s compassion in Luke 10:38-42, a story of Jesus with Martha and Mary.  Jesus and his disciples have come to their home, and Martha is frenetic with guest preparations—while sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening.  Eventually, Martha snaps.  Jesus should tell Mary to get busy!  Here, however, is what Jesus says: “Martha, Martha, . . . .”  Can you hear his gentle voice in the way he repeats her name?  Christ wants better for Martha than to be crazy and distracted over physical things, when spiritual treasures stand so close (John 6:27-29).

(Here's a later, lightbulb thought that also helped me understand this story: Jesus traveled! For Martha and Mary, there were no New Testaments or Christian churches, for getting to know Jesus at any time They had this limited visit! Truly, Mary's choice was better!)

Stanza 3, to me, is about remembering this compassionate Christ, in person, who wants me to find eternal food, and to spend time with him.  
It’s about trusting the One who speaks to me gently by name.

So where are we?

The lilies and sparrows passage reminds us of God’s care for all creationand especially for us—so that we can trust him to supply what we need.  Jesus’ prescription for worry is to seek the Kingdom of God, and everything else will fall into place.

The Parable of the Sower suggests that worldly worries are a loss, like soil given over to thorns.  And, since I’ve never seen a soil that could pull its own weeds, we may need to call on a gardener willing to face the dirty work.

The Martha and Mary story reminds us of Christ’s compassion.  When Mary stayed at Jesus’ feet to hear his words, he filled her field of vision as well as her heart.  Sometimes the prescription to “seek the kingdom” is as simple as the choice to put ourselves near Jesus.  I think it’s like getting out “for some sun,” except that this spiritual basking is even more necessary.

The Bible account here doesn’t say what Jesus was teaching Mary that day. Wherever Mary was in her faithwherever I am, and wherever you are
“seeking first the Kingdom of God” is an encompassing bottom line.


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