THE ANTIDOTE FOR AN ADDICTION
When you watch Major League Baseball, you are seeing the glamorous part of the game. Young men engaged in a highly skilled sport. Playing under bright lights. Watched by thousands in the stands and by millions more in their living rooms. You see young men who are paid millions of dollars to play a game. But what you don’t see is what they have given up to get to the big leagues. You would get a peek at what they give up if you went down to Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona Summer League is the very bottom rung of the minor leagues. It’s so low that there is no paid admission for its games. There are also no food vendors, no public announcers, and no giant scoreboards. Major League teams, using their own spring training facilities around the Phoenix area, run the league. The players are a mix: kids just drafted out of high school, professionals trying to rebound after healing from some potentially career-ending injury, and older guys looking for one last chance to prove themselves and get a minor-league contract. The players who play in the Arizona Summer League do get paid, but very little and they earn every bit of it. Their games are often played in 110 degrees heat. There are no days off and no special treatment. Tonight’s starting pitcher may throw 95 mph, but his next task after the game will be to go and gather up all the baseballs hit out of play. Why do they do it? Some players would say that they give up so much out of a love for the game. That may or may not be true.
But isn’t it true there are things that you would give up out of your love for Jesus? Love for Jesus is what the last verse of today’s Gospel reading is about. It brings to mind some of our hymns. Jesus, Priceless Treasure. One Thing’s Needful, Lord, This Treasure. “Jesus, source of lasting pleasure, truest friend, and dearest treasure.” Is Jesus Himself the treasure of which this verse speaks? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” We are commanded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus, priceless, dearest treasure, is where your heart is to be. Then, for love of Jesus, what would you give up?
Jesus has some ideas about what He would have you give up for love of Him. Right here in this same passage, Jesus lists three things He commands us to give up out of love for Him. “Do not be anxious about your life.” “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.” “Fear not, little flock…” Anxiousness, worries, and fear. Three things to give up out of love for Jesus. Which is sort of like telling a baseball player to give up, sunflower seeds, and bubble gum. But telling a follower of Jesus to give up their anxiousness, worry, and fear, is more like telling a painkiller user to give up prescription painkillers. We hear a lot these days about folks becoming addicted to prescription painkillers like oxycodone. Well, there’s a lot of misinformation, too. Users of prescription painkillers may be led to believe certain myths. Like, if their need for the painkiller is a valid one, then they cannot become addicted. Well, that is a myth. Those who worry and are afraid, or anxious often believe the same myth. We may believe that if we have a valid reason for going through our days afraid, anxious, worried, then we there is no harm in it. It might actually be healthy for us. We certainly cannot become addicted to fear, worry, or anxiousness. Well, that’s a myth.
Consider how much time each day you spend reading God’s Word and praying versus how much time every day you spend listening to those who tell us that we should be afraid, that we should be worried, and that we should be anxious. Consider how much time every day you spend on thinking, fretting, and talking over those same fears and life’s worries, whether they’re valid or not. Now, expecting to give up those three things is expecting a lot, isn’t it? Particularly, when addiction does not seem to bother the person. Users of prescription painkillers may be led to believe that addiction is not that bad, that there are no longterm consequences for using things like oxycodone. Well, that’s a myth. The same myth often believed by those who fear, worry, are anxious. We may be led to believe that constant worrying, being afraid, and being anxious have no long-term consequences. They’re relatively harmless. That’s a myth.
In His explanation of the Parable of the Seed, Jesus says, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear the Word of God, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries.” Choking, strangling, wringing is the original root of the word worry. As in the wringing of one’s neck. Does choking, strangling, wringing sound harmless? Worry can slowly choke your hope. Anxiousness can slowly strangle your joy. Fear can slowly asphyxiate your faith. It’s as though these things are hands that get a grip on your throat and won’t let go, all the while assuring you that they are harmless, even good for your health. How hard it is to give them up.
By contrast, we do not see Jesus spending His days in fear, worry, being anxious, though He had valid reasons for it. He knew for certain and in great detail what was going to happen to Him and to His friends. Yet, one of the dominant images we have of Jesus is of Him praying. Today’s Gospel reading also reveals how much Jesus enjoyed nature: birds, bugs, and flowers. Why not? After all, He created them. The light humor of the Creator is something we don’t want to overlook in these verses. It’s not that Jesus is making light of the problems of the world or the challenges His followers face. He uses these pictures of His creation, of ravens not worrying about having enough barns, nor spending all day at the grocery store fretting over which brand of baked beans to purchase. He uses these pictures of His creation, of lilies that do not sew their own clothes nor do they stand all day in the front of a mirror putting on foundation, rouge, mascara, and lipstick. He uses these pictures of His creation to steer us towards the Creator who not only created and provides for ravens and lilies but who also created you and provides for you.
Jesus would steer our attention away from the fear-talk and the worried looping inside our heads towards our Creator. Here is the antidote for the harmful addiction to worry, fear, and anxiousness. The antidote contained in God’s promises to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Seek first His kingdom, and all these other things you worry about will be added to you.” In other words, “receive the blessings that King Jesus His reign has brought into the world.” Look to the cross and see Jesus hanging naked, hungry, and thirsty. He is your treasure, because He gained for you that other treasure: the forgiveness of your sins.
To seek first His kingdom is to see what King Jesus is doing. What’s He up to? It’s so easy to see all of the other things happening in the world today. But instead, go to where King Jesus is ruling this world with truth and grace. Go to the Scriptures and to the Lord’s Supper and to the fellowship of the baptized. Each day go to where King Jesus is at work forgiving and restoring to you your relationship with your Creator, who knows your needs and is not distant or removed from your needs. To seek first His kingdom is to prayerfully look for the day of the return of King Jesus and the fulfillment of His reign. This, your Creator promises, you will be part of, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Remember His commands, and receive His blessings and promises. He promises seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added to you. These blessings and promises of your Creator show you that the things you are so worried about are not your masters. These blessings and promises uncurl the choking, strangling hands of worry and fear and anxiousness from your throat. Amen.
This message by Rev. Jim Dunn brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected] A Pass it On Project , You can read more at The Antidote for an Addiction