Have No Anxiety At All
Misty Kiwak Jacobs, Berkeley at Yale Divinity School seminarian and Global Partnerships/Episcopal UN intern for 2018 - 2019, preached the following sermon on November 9th, 2018 at the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City. We thank her for her comforting words and for sharing her homily.
HAVE NO ANXIETY AT ALL
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me,* “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13: 31-35)
“Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you!” Jesus is headed to Jerusalem when the Pharisees give him this warning. Jesus responds defiantly, “Tell that fox I am casting out demons and performing cures . . .”
That fox. Foxes were widespread throughout the Middle East, and were associated with untrustworthiness and destruction. You’ve heard the idiom, a fox in the henhouse? That’s bad news for the hens. Herod, that fox, was a serious threat.
But Jesus is unconcerned. You might remember Jesus showing a similar indifference to his parents when they found him after a frantic search, preaching in the temple at age 13. Jesus said, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
In his Father’s house, ministering to others, doing God’s will. Jesus was not controlled by his parents worry or by a strict interpretation of the Torah or by Herod. He was intent upon His father’s work, undistracted and unafraid. What distracts us from ministering to others, from doing God’s will in our lives?
For me, the windows in this city are distracting. They cause a carefully crafted anxiety, telling us that perhaps we could dress a bit better, that a shiny new watch would signal our intelligence and success, that a splurge on expensive makeup will turn back time. I’m a sucker for that last one. I am a believer in the heresy that a new lipstick can cure what ails you. Marketing creates fear that we don’t look good enough, we aren’t successful enough and we aren’t young enough. If we just spend more money, we’ll be on the right track.
Other forces in the world try to scare us off God’s path. To influence the midterm elections, refugees in distress have been demonized as an ominous caravan of thieves and bandits swelling toward the border, a carefully crafted narrative designed to foment fear.
The left is not innocent in this regard. The past month or so, I noticed an increase in articles on social media to the effect “Is It Too Late to Avoid the Impact of Climate Change?” The message was — over and over — “We are doomed.”
“Well,” you might be thinking, “this anxiety is science-based!” Well, yes, but I think the timing was interesting. What better way to scare progressives into the voting booths? Of course we should vote, but listen to how Pope Francis conveys the beauty and fragility of creation,
It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.” (Laudato Si’).
Pope Francis conveys our duty of stewardship by detailing the wonder of creation, not by manipulating our fears.
This world offers a constant infusion of anxiety and fear. But anxiety is not God’s will for us. Marketing and politics and social media are all foxes, cunning and often deceitful, attempting to manipulate our trajectory. Let us instead remain in God’s will. Jesus dismisses the warning about Herod. He says, “I must be on my way,” and doesn’t diverge from his path.
While rejecting their warning, Jesus answers the Pharisees, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings . . . “
What protection does Jesus offer, exactly, in this gathering together? God’s will for Jesus in Jerusalem is suffering and death. His own apostles will face crucifixion, beheading, stoning and burning. Jesus offers to gather us into himself, nurturing our relationship with God on earth and promising us eternal life with him in heaven. But the assaults of the world, the foxes, will still come.
As Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) Do God’s will. Follow Jesus. Ignore the interruptions.
Misty Kiwak Jacobs and the Reverend Joe Parrish lead worship at the Chapel of Christ the Lord, Episcopal Church Center