Be Ye Not Anxious (or Hysterical)

Be Ye Not Anxious…or Hysterical

I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 over and again. He advises me to keep an eye on birds and lilies of the field and not to be anxious.

Here on the farm the Eastern Kingbirds, Goldfinches and Bobolinks are among the birds I have been watching. The Kingbirds are here in strong numbers, back from their wintering grounds in Central and South America. They dart out from their perches on the fences to snap up their food of insects. The Goldfinches happily feed on the burdock that we consider a great pest-plant. The Bobolinks are our long-distance champs who travel from the Argentine pampas to get here. Cutting hay before they fledge their young is a terrible thing, but I can only hope and pray that we leave enough tall grass year-round for a good population . I can only suppose Jesus wants me to trust God’s providence for the Barn Swallows as well, though they did not return in as many numbers as they left here last fall. Something in the southern hemisphere must have been harsh for them as neither I nor my sister’s farm in Kentucky have the numbers we have enjoyed in the past.

Despite flights of 5,000 miles the birds come. Despite our cutting and spraying and paving, they bless us by staying. It seems God has invested quite a bit in birds.
So Jesus advises me to watch birds and flowers. What he doesn’t say is instructive as well. He doesn’t say keep an eye on the President. He doesn’t warn me to keep track of the Dow. And he apparently thinks I can do without watching my neighbors to see if they are accumulating more stuff than I am, or trying to swindle me.

I recently received a pitch from a college that boasts it doesn’t take taxpayer money. It seems this college is a great, great institution that is sitting pretty on solid ground; but things are not so for the United States of America. Nonetheless, this great college needs my help to save our tottering nation that is about to be thrust under the runaway train of despotism by ravaging wolf-like people who hate the American Constitution.

That pitch and the fear it advocates sounds familiar. Evidently there is something called the Tea Party movement in America that believes things are just that dire. They believe the party people are America’s last best hope. They say President Obama is about to make me a gay, gunless, gutless, communistic, fascist. (I’d almost like to see what that would look like.). They say they want their country back; and if they don’t get it back, things will get very, very ugly. 
I am told to keep my eye on my money, on the Constitution, on the government, and on the Tea Party people. Somehow, if I do, I will be able to see all this despotism coming my way.

No, sorry.

I think I would rather watch the birds and the lilies. I think I would rather consider the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. I know vigilance is the price of liberty and I do very much believe that if you give any sons-of-a-gun too much power they will corrupt things—even the nation they are busy saving. But I also believe even more deeply that those who do the corrupting just love fear. They use fear. They ride it into power. They drive down their opponents with it. They silence sane people with it.

This fear starts out silly, but it has passed that now. Too much silly fear soon constitutes a hateful hysteria, and if an entire college wants to build its endowment by using hysteria, and an entire political movement can be fueled by hysteria…well, look out. Head for the hills.

And sit there a while contemplating the birds and the lilies.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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2 Responses to Be Ye Not Anxious (or Hysterical)

  1. Judith Romanski says:

    As I sit on the deck, watching the sun slowly sink into the horizon, I find peace in your words. Sitting here watching the birds come to rest on a tree barely strong enough to hold their weight. Swallows, goldfinches and one that I can not yet identify land on the tiny branches to rest for a moment. Your wise words remind me that the birds are neither anxious or hysterical. God takes care of their needs. They are the lucky ones.
    I pray for strength as to not be sucked into the vortex that threatens the calm. I absorb the words in Matthew 6 and try, try, try …
    God bless

  2. John says:

    Wonderful to hear from you. The birds have been soothing to me as well, although right now I’m being soothed by the good people moving quietly about our local library.

    The other day we had a big wind and I had to put two immature robins back in their nest. I hope and pray they survived.

    I want soon to post something about the way the sheep weather the storms. They all stand stoically facing the same way, with their rear ends facing the wind (are they mooning?). It seems as good a way as any to get through tough times.

    How are you doing in Pennsylvania?


    Pastor John

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