Getting Through Anxious Times
Rev. Deadra Ashton, Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
and Members of the Congregation
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
August 8, 2021 Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
You can read or download the scriptures here: 8-8-21 Service Readings
You can watch the video recording of the Call to Worship, Children’s Time and Conversation-Sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here. There is no pdf of the sermon this week because it was a conversation, but here are the texts of the Call to Worship and Children’s Time.
Call to Worship
As the Call to Worship I am going to quote excerpts from an interview in Psychology Today with Sheryl Paul, a Jungian counselor, teacher and the best-selling author of the book The Wisdom of Anxiety. Here is some of what she says:
“We can view pain of all kinds—physical, emotional, spiritual—as a messenger offering an opportunity to grow and heal, or we can see anxiety through the lens that we’re being tortured or punished or that it’s evidence of brokenness. One is a lens of hope and even gratitude, and one is a lens of shame.”
“Our symptoms are so wise. Our bodies are so wise. Just as our physical pain response tells us to pay attention, so anxiety invites us to wake up…. We live in these extraordinary bodies and psyches that will guide us toward well-being if only we could slow down long enough and find the courage to listen.”
“What needs attention will differ for everyone, but there will always be wisdom and guidance that emerge when anxiety is approached through the lens of curiosity and compassion.”
“When we take care of our bodies, learn to respond to our thoughts effectively, meet our emotions with compassion, and…connect to a consistent spiritual practice, anxiety lessens.”
Here ends the lesson from Sheryl Paul.
Our spiritual life can reduce our anxiety, and reducing anxiety enables our spiritual life to deepen, and the result of both reduced anxiety and deepened spiritual life is that we are better able to change the world in ways that make it less anxiety-provoking. Let us worship together the Spirit that is still at work today as it was in ages past to free us and lead us through anxious times toward the realm of God’s love and peace on earth.
Time with Children
Jesus was human. He had feelings. So did his followers. They felt love, joy and peace, but also fear, grief and anxiety.
There are two Gospel stories that show this. The first story took place on Maundy Thursday. Jesus knew that powerful people were trying to kill him. He went out on a hill overlooking Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives to a garden called Gethsemane. He fell to his knees and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
In other words, I don’t want to get arrested and killed, but if it is what I need to do in order to serve you, then I am willing. After he prayed that, an angel appeared and gave him strength. He was still in anguish, suffering—sad, lonely, anxious and afraid. He prayed again so hard that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
You see, everyone gets upset sometimes, and it’s OK to wish things were different and pray for that, but at the same time it is important to accept that what we are anxious about may need to happen and to trust enough to say, not my will, but thy will be done. That welcoming prayer can work miracles and give us the strength we need.
The second story is about Easter night. The disciples were hiding in a house with the doors locked, anxious about being arrested and killed as Jesus had been, and also anxious about the story of Jesus rising from the dead. Then all of a sudden he was there among them in that locked room. They thought he was a ghost and freaked out, but Jesus told them, “Peace be with you.”
He was saying it almost as a command, or a word of power to help change their state of mind. Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and then he sent them out into the world to do the same work that he had done.
It is natural to be so anxious sometimes that we want to hide and not risk doing the work that Jesus calls us to do, but Jesus will come through our locked doors andgive us peace so we can open to the Spirit and go back out to make this world a loving, healthy, fair place for all.
It helps if we do what Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, because it unlocks the doors of our heart and opens us to the Spirit…. So let us pray.
There is no sermon text this week because the sermon was a conversation. You can hear and watch it in the video below.