So, after several hours of work on the passage for this Sunday, I reached in my file drawer and grabbed the appropriate worship folder, but when I saw “Transfiguration Sunday” printed on the label it dawned on me that I’d spent all that time working on the wrong passage. I hadn’t looked, just assumed that we’d be continuing through Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount on up to Easter, but no…. the Transfiguration jumped in there and tripped me up big time, hours worth of time. And Jesus’ lesson on worry, not to mention the bulletin cover with Mad magazine’s Alfred E Neuman poised as Moses about to smash the stone tablets on the heads of some big name TV preachers just did not have much to do with Jesus being transfigured on the mountain.
But before I file this in the “vanity of vanities, all is vanity” box, perhaps a thought or two will redeem the futility of my efforts.
In N. T. Wright’s “Kingdom” version of the New Testament Mt. 6:34, the last line in the passage, reads: “So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow can worry about itself. One day’s trouble at a time is quite enough.” Easy to say, but hard to do. But, it may be easier than trying to do what we most often try to do and that’s live the future in
the present. Author and writing instructor Anne Lamott tells the story about her brother who had an assignment due the following day, one that had been assigned several weeks ago, and that was to make drawings and describe each of 25 birds. Her brother was lamenting the impossibility of the task with but one night to work on it, “How am I suppose to do all this?” Their father’s kindly but firm response: “Well son, bird by bird, I suppose.”
That became the title for Anne Lamott’s book on writing, “Bird by Bird,” for writing wasn’t something one could do any other way than word by word. Living, says Jesus, is the same way. Day by day. Any other way and it isn’t long until worry, anxiety, fretting, and skipping across the surface of life in the present tense chews us up. Future worries cause present day paralysis.
Give us today, our daily bread, Jesus teaches us to pray, not grant us an annuity for all our tomorrows. One days’s trouble at a time, Jesus says, not all of the troubles of future days at once. Today, this person, this work, this call, this child, this book, this time; to trust God with this moment is the crux of faith. All the future moments are God’s anyway, let God take care of them, ‘cause all we can do is worry about them. Future worries paralyze present faith. Bird by bird. Word by word. Day by day.