Matthew 25-27 NRSV ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
My friend Sally is without a job. In a culture where worth is measured by what one does for a living, being jobless is a devastating experience. The anxiety of not being able to pay the bills is coupled with the harrowing experience of having to go from job interview to job interview in an atmosphere of intense competition. After a couple of months of this, Sally felt completely worthless – not valued, not wanted. “I just want to be useful,” she would say, in tears. On top of this she had to apply for public assistance, had to accept the label of being needy, poor, and lazy. It was almost too much to bear.
She happened upon the passage in the Gospel reading for today and found it very comforting and freeing. Jesus says, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Sally told me she didn’t interpret this to mean that all she had to do was pray and she’d get enough to eat. No, there isn’t anything in the passage about prayer. But still what Jesus said freed her. Birds aren’t judged by what they do for a living. They just are who they are; and they’re loved. She could quit judging herself for not being able to provide for her family.
“I suddenly saw that there is a different way to look at what happens during a day,” she told me. “You can see that God is present in it. Other people might judge you or look down their noses at you because you aren’t working, but God doesn’t. God just loves you and is with you, no matter what you’re going through.”
She began a discipline of thanksgiving. Every evening before she went to bed she would call to mind all the things for which she was grateful and talk to God about them. She told me it expanded her horizons. She didn’t attribute her good fortune to God any more than she attributed her bad fortune to God, but God helped her celebrate what there was in her life to rejoice about. This sharing somehow kept her grounded in the fact that God values her profoundly and loves her completely, even when the world doesn’t.
Today we celebrate a national holiday of thanksgiving. If we take it seriously, it can expand our horizons. There is a lot we can rejoice about, even in the worst of times. And God is right here with us through all our moments.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. She will soon manage a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries.