3/2/2014, Don't Worry, Be Happy

Isaiah 49:14-15, I Corinthians 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34

Sometimes when I begin to reflect on a set of weekly lectionary readings, it seems that the reflection experience refuses to emerge from my intellect. Rather, the lesson is imposed by life itself.  This was just such a week.  First the Old Testament prophet Isaiah moans on behalf of the nation of Israel. “Our God has abandoned me; Adonai has forgotten me.”  Well, yes… the book of the week that speaks to my situation is “The Dark Night of the Soul.”  I’ve been carrying it around with me everywhere.  There are days when I can no longer perceive which end is up in my declaration that I believe in God.  What does that mean, anyway?

To make my question even more complicated,  in Corinthians Paul ruminates on the issue of responsibility. The first requirement of a person who has been given a trust, he says, is faithfulness.  He also suggests that no one should pass judgment on anyone else.  Only Christ gets that privilege.  In fact, he reminds himself not to judge himself, even though he admits that the fact he has nothing on his conscience does not presume his innocence. Everything that is hidden in the darkness of the heart will eventually come to light.  Now THAT’s kinda scary!  What’s hidden in my heart anyway that the Dark Night of the Soul seems so real at times?

And finally there’s the Gospel passage in which Jesus clearly teaches that to worry about things is a waste of energy and time. “Enough of worrying about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Today has enough trouble of its own.” Well, this week has been one of those weeks in which so many areas in which I have been given a trust have all made their demands at once.  And when that happens, when the things and people to whom I deeply desire to manifest faithfulness simultaneously require my attention --- that’s when worry pops up.  For me, it’s not so much a matter of food or clothes or shelter. It’s about not dropping the ball on promises that I have made to people, or think that I have made to people.  When my mind goes into hyper-planning mode, when I start to feel as if I’ve fallen out of the presence of the Divine, when I start to hear the voices of judgment of others or myself: that’s when I need to take a deep breath and have a little chat with myself: “Self, Seek first God’s reign and God’s justice, and all these things will be given you besides. Enough of worrying about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

As I was taking those deep breaths this weekend, music came into my soul as it often does.  The song we used as a Psalm was evoked by the memory of my father, a man who rose in spirit over many discouraging obstacles in his life.  When he died suddenly on October 3, 1988, we found this daily devotional reading on the table beside his bed: “It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”  Before the funeral my younger sisters told me that the song he had been whistling all summer long was Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TJ7tW3188o)Could we say that this is a modern man’s writing of a Psalm, a prayer experience of life?  I think so… that is why instead of using the ancient Psalm chant from scripture today, we invited you to hear and engage the chant, “don’t worry, be happy.”

In the 1980’s, my expression of Christian faith was undeniably conservative. I regretfully admit now that I made harsh and untrue judgments about the reggae style music of such people as Bobby McFerrin. I assumed they were all brain-addled drug addicts.  Imagine my surprise when I began to do a little research on Bobby McFerrin this week and discovered the very strong Christian underpinnings of his musical career.  Then, downloaded directly to my computer on Friday morning was Krista Tippett’s Thursday interview with him! http://www.onbeing.org/  It was as if Spirit wanted us to hear the voice of a modern day Psalmist and spiritual teacher through this man.  There could have been no better way for me to settle deep in my soul Jesus’ own words: Don’t worry!  Be happy!

And so to give us all the chance to settle into a place of peace, I offer you today the words and work of Bobby McFerrin in the shape of another classic prayer.   Rest in the beauty and creativity of the human voice as a musical instrument. (Ave Maria-  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14LcvpXmb74)

Well, who knows what the week ahead will bring for any of us? I hope that for me it will be another week of moment to moment loving of others, the kind of loving that drains human energy so much that it requires the grace of letting go and letting God.  Jesus reminds us that none of us by worrying can add a single moment to our lifespan.  So, even in the days when God seems absent and the outer and inner voices of judgment disturb us, let us simply do what we can do.  We can be faithful in the trusts we have been given and we can place our anxiety in the hands of God.  Don’t worry!  Be happy!

By Sandi DeMaster