Homily, Look, Consider, Seek
Thanksgiving Day B,
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful and festive morning it is here in Tequesta! The weather is beautiful, Run for the Pies was a hit, and many of us will be gathering with friends and family soon.
Now I know in the church calendar the season of Advent starts this Sunday (not Christmas), but, for me, growing up, Thanksgiving was always the beginning of the Christmas season. I took it to heart when Santa came through at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the NBC hosts proclaimed on television that with him was ushered in the Christmas season. And evidently many others take it to heart too because already we’re starting to see Christmas lights up on houses and our own town parades are coming up soon!
Tis the season! Tis the season to be jolly! Tis the season to be joyful! Tis the season to be jubilant! Tis the season to be stressed and worried!
For all its joy and beauty, many of us certainly carry more complicated feelings these last two months of the year than simple joviality. Whether it be the stress that comes from challenging familial relationships, or the anxiety that comes from traveling, or the grief that comes from loneliness and loss, or the overwhelm that comes from gift shopping, or the nerves that come from financial strain, amongst the joyful celebrations we certainly have much about which to worry don’t we? In fact, some national surveys show that almost half of all Americans report heightened stress around the holidays (and I think the other half maybe aren’t being so honest). Many of us love this time of year, but it certainly has its challenges.
Well, thankfully this morning our gospel passage has a word just for us. “Do not worry!” Amen.
…Just kidding. I can’t end the sermon there. That wouldn’t be very helpful, would it? “Do not worry.” That’s easier said than done!
But if we take in this passage a little more we do find that Jesus offers us three tools for helping us with our worry. Three times in this passage Jesus uses a positive imperative to accompany his repeating command “do not worry.”
The first one is the word “Look.” “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap…” In Greek its the word emblepo, which carries just the simple meaning, to turn one’s eyes on. “Look.”
Too often in the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas with all of our things to do and shopping lists and packed calendars we move from one thing to another without ever being present in the places we stand. We live so much in our minds we don’t notice the beauty of the world around us. How many of you have driven somewhere in your car and upon reaching your destination you realize you don’t remember big chunks of the road that brought you there? We’re too busy looking at the worries in our heads rather than the tangible things right in front of us.
And so Jesus tells us, “Look.” “When was the last time you looked up and noticed the birds of the air? Have you noticed how well fed they are? Have you noticed their beauty? Have you noticed they are well taken care of? Look. Notice. Be present. Go outside and simply look.
Jesus’ second command for us when we worry is to consider. Consider. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” The Greek word is katamanthano, which essentially means to learn and to comprehend. Consider.
I think it’s quite possible that in our lives we don’t take enough time for reflection. We don’t take enough time to stop and reflect on the lives we’re living, to consider all the things in our lives, and how God might be teaching us something. When we don’t take the time to reflect and consider the experiences in our lives, then our worries become all we can see. They become our big picture, and we completely miss how they fit into God’s big picture. When we take the time to consider our worries we often realize we’ve blown them out of proportion. I don’t mean to minimize whatever we’re going through (some of us are going through some big things), but if we take the time to zoom out a little bit and consider that whatever we’re worried about has no bearing on the depth of God’s love for us, then it helps. Worries are real but temporal; God’s love is eternal.
Finally, God commands us to “strive,” in other places its translated as “seek.” The Greek word is zeteo, to seek after, to look for. “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Seek the presence of God. Look for where God shows up in the midst of our busied and hurried lives.
This whole season leading up to Christmas is about the coming—the Advent—of God into our lives. And we are being called to seek that presence of God in all that we do. Be ready for it. Pay attention to it. Expect it. Prepare for it. God is already walking with us in the midst of the things that we carry. The question is are we aware of God’s presence with us. Are we aware of Emmanuel—God with us. When we seek God’s presence in our lives, then God can help us carry our load of worries and anxieties. As St. Peter wrote in his letter, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Look. Consider. Seek.
Look. Consider. Seek.
As you face all the joy and celebration of this season. As you face all the worry and anxiety of this season. Remember to take time to look around you, being present wherever you are. Remember to consider your experiences, and carve out time for reflection. And remember to seek the presence of God wherever you walk.
Look. Consider. Seek. Amen.