Rev. Christine Nakyeyune
“Do not be anxious for nothing.”
Exodus 16: 2-15
Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45
Phillipians 1: 21-30
Matthew 20: 1-16
Prayer: We thank you O God, for calling us to be your people. Enable us to really be your people. Thank you for this day. Please give me the right words to deliver to this group of your people that you have gathered here. I ask this in the name of the great Savior, Jesus Christ.
Greetings: Dear friends,
I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for coming to worship and to learn of Him from His Word.
Checking in: Last week, and during week happenings.
Examining the readings:
Our theme is, “Do not be anxious about anything.”
In the Exodus lesson that we read, the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the complaint was that there was no meat for the people to eat. They murmured all day long. Sometimes putting in crying tones in their voices. Perhaps they even carried posters and placards, with words in large letters expressing their anger, angst, and disgust at Moses and Aaron for the absence of meat. “We—want-- meat, we—want-- meat, we –want-- meat” they must have chanted in unison! They decried ever having left Egypt. They wished that the Lord had killed them in Egypt, and they lied to themselves that there in Egypt they were better off, that they sat around pots filled with meat, and ate all the bread that they wanted. Then they pointed a finger at Moses and Aaron and said, “But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death. “We want meat, we want meat.”
WOOOOW! That must have pinched Moses and Aaron to the core of their heart. The whole crowd, as many as two million people speaking words like those, and Moses and Aaron hearing them from all corners! Imagine that! Moses and Aaron must have felt so bad! “What do we do?” they must have wondered in exasperation.
The Israelites at this stage, were still very immature. They did not really know God personally. They had heard about Him in folklore as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they did not have personal knowledge of Him for themselves. They had just come from slavery, a slavery of four hundred years, where they had been treated as beasts of burden. Lots of work, little food, little rest, show of raw power by the Egyptian military, rough treatment! That is how they lived in Egypt. In that environment, the way to survive was by agitation, and uprisings, and survival for the fittest, everyone for himself or herself. That’s how they lived. That is the only life they knew. Those were the only methods they knew to handle life. And they attempted to follow God without transplanting that paradigm of acting and thinking what life was, what really constituted life. So, in their immaturity, they employed the Egypt tactics, namely, complaining, bickering, and expression of extreme deprivation, anger, fury, and the like.
Moses and Aaron, were a long way on the maturity road, far ahead of the people they led. Indeed, the two must have felt the pain of the people complaining, but Moses and Aaron had an out, the Lord Himself. So the two arranged a prayer meeting (my words), in which they would go with the entire crowd before the Lord. By the way (I should mention to you that this was the second complaint and it was about food or meat.) (1) The first complaint was about the absence of water towards the end of chapter 15 of Exodus. Now in the prayer meeting before the Lord, God responded and brought along birds called quail, flying very low, low enough to be caught easily. The birds were all over the place. Also in the morning, when there was still dew on the ground, the whole place got covered by a substance that the people did not know what it was. They asked themselves, man hu, which is Hebrew for what is it? I do not know the proper pronunciation but it could be mannu, or even manna. So God provided them that substance as food, as well as the birds, the quail. But when we go further in the book of Exodus it was not long before the people complained again, (3) third complaint. Whenever they were faced with uncertainty in life, their method of facing the uncertainty, was complaining, and bickering, and raising dust, and pointing fingers.
In the gospel, the Lord tells the parable of a rich man who owned a vineyard. The rich man sent workers into his vineyard but at different times. The work day started at 6am. So the rich man went to a labor ready place (you know labor ready places here in America?) and found some men and hired them to work in his vineyard at an agreed amount of pay. Then at 9am, he was passing through the market place and saw some men loitering around. He told them also to go and work in his vineyard, that he would pay them something. The same thing happened at noon, and at 3pm. The rich man sent men in his vineyard and promised to pay them something. And at 5pm, he did the same thing. He found some men standing about, and hired them to work in the same vineyard, and promised to pay them as he would choose. A work day ended at 6pm. It was twelve hours long. So the first hires worked 12 hours, the next ones worked 9 hours, the next ones worked 6 hours, the next ones worked 3 hours, and the last ones worked only one hour. Please note that the first ones to be hired were contracted to work at an agreed pay. Possibly there was even a bargain, something like: I will pay you this much, and the men said oh no this much, and the man said what about this much, and the men: ok, let us do this much, etc… until a deal was struck. But all the others, those who were hired at 9, at 12, at 3 and at 5 there was no agreed amount of pay. They entrusted themselves entirely on the kindness, goodwill, and good natured-ness of the boss. When the time for paying the workers arrived, the treasurer started with the last ones who came at 5pm and, at the behest of the rich man who was present right there, paid them the full 12 hour day salary exactly the same as the first ones had bargained to get. He paid the same amount to those who came at 3pm, 12pm, and 9am. Then he came to those who started work at 6am. They reasoned within themselves, that if he paid that much to those who worked only a few hours, surely he is going to pay us much more for having worked much longer under the scorching sun!! But to their deep chagrin and displeasure, he paid them exactly the same amount as he paid the rest. And true to unregenerate humanity, they rose up in arms and raised a hot complaint: how can you pay us who worked a full day the same as those who worked only part of the day! But the owner stood up to them, and wondered loudly, why they would fault him for being generous to the others. He reminded the complainers that he had not done any wrong to them who worked all day. He said he paid them as agreed. He asked them why they would find his generosity to the others to be so unfair. He said he acted fairly because he kept his side of the deal as much as they kept theirs.
Application: My brothers and sisters in the Lord, think about what we have garnered from the Word of God. Anxiety incited the Israelites of Exodus 16 to complain, and the first hires of Matthew 20 to complain. Moses shows us a way out whenever we are faced with anxiety. First, ensure that you have a personal knowledge of God. Do not blindly follow the faith of your parents or grandparents or friends or neighbors. Not even your church. Do not be a church member out of tradition. Seek to know God for yourself, and become His friend. That’s the first step to discipleship and belonging to the community of Jesus’ followers.
Second, present the complaints of your life to the Lord and leave them there. Entrust yourself to the goodness of the Lord, trusting that in His magnanimity He will find a way out for you. He wants you to be a witness while you are in the midst of your circumstances. In His wisdom, He might get you out of the circumstance, or He might choose just to be with you all the way in the fire. Remember Daniel of old in Daniel chapter 3, verses 24 – 25!
In the Philippians passage, Paul gives us a picture of a person contented in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let u teach ourselves to take life as is, not as we would like it to be. Accept people as they are and relate to them as a person who has been redeemed by Jesus. Do not wait for them to be pure and holy, and all straight, before you be good to them. When I say people, I mean our spouses, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our workmates, and all human beings. Unleash the best YOU to them, irrespective of who they are.
In times of financial dilemma, health dilemma, continuous pain in the body, unpleasant relationships, loneliness, I tell you anxiety-- and worrying-- will not grant you-- an inch --of solution. Present your matter to the Lord and leave it there, after you’ve made the Lord your friend, your best friend, your companion, your God, your savior.
Do not allow anxiety, and complaint, to define you, and to be the overall attitude by which you treat people, and by which you deal with difficult situations in your life. I am sending you out, dear friends, in the name of Jesus to be a friend of God and a friend of the human beings He created, the good and the best among them, and the bad and the worst. Jesus is on the throne, ruling the universe, and directing it to His desired end. Rest in that truth.
So, friends, do-not- be- anxious! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, and giving thanks for what else you have, present your requests to God. That’s Philippians chapter four, verse 6!
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
God bless you. God bless you, God’s people!