John (my husband) and I were co-liturgists today at our home church, Urbandale United Church of Christ. I did the Greeting and lead the Call to Worship. He read scripture. Pretty typical liturgist tasks in the United Church of Christ.
But Urbandale UCC has a custom I’ve not seen anywhere else. Led by the liturgist, it’s called “Presentation of Our Gifts.” It’s often a time when a particular program or outreach effort of the congregation is highlighted: Vacation Bible School (with a plea for volunteers) or the Youth Mission Trip (with a list of ways to support them) or the latest project of the Green Boat Crew (solar panels for the church). Sometimes it’s about an organization in the wider Des Moines area that serves people in need. Much less frequently it’s a personal testimony.
We decided to focus on one of our favorite scriptures – one that John has been teaching me how to live for 25 years. I read the verses from Matthew; John wrote and presented the rest. With his permission to share, here is the script we used this morning.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life.”
– Matthew 6:25 NRSV
It was the third of June 2011. Eight years ago next week.
The doctor came into the room with his hair on fire.
“You have metastatic prostate cancer. Stage IV. Spread to your bones.”
And I thought, “so this is the way it ends.”
I remembered Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.”
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day…
…Billie Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.
The song is a downer. It’s not happy. The people are hurting. Relationships are failing. It’s not good.
After my cancer diagnosis, I had to decide how to live with it – an unwelcome companion. That thing was going to be with me for the rest of my life.
“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?”
– Matthew 6:26-27 NRSV
Another song came to mind. By Bobby McFerrin.
Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now.
Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
“And why do you worry about clothing. Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
– Matthew 6:28-29 NRSV
One more song. From Monty Python. By Eric Idle.
Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life
If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
Eric Idle, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”
“Therefore do not worry, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink? Or ‘What will we wear? … But strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
– Matthew 6:31-34 NRSV
One day at a time.
Don’t borrow trouble.
Don’t worry. Be happy.
Look on the bright side of life.
And keep a song in your heart.