(Matthew 6: 25-34)


On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illinois Republican State Convention after they had named him their candidate for United States Senate.  He said: Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.  If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.  We are now into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.  Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.  In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fail—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing, or all the other.  Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new—North as well as South.  Have we no tendency to the latter conditions? 


Just two years earlier on May 22, 1856, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina entered the Senate Chamber and repeatedly struck Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts over the head with a cane.  The assault was in reaction to a speech in which Sumner criticized slavery and the Senators who supported it, including Andrew Butler, a relative of Brooks.  A select committee investigating the incident recommended expelling Brooks from Congress, but the resolution did not secure the necessary 2/3 vote when it reached the House Floor.  The country, less than 100 years old, was heading for a great civil war over arguments of slavery, civil rights, state’s rights, commerce, and control of Congress.


And here we are just over 160 years later living in a house divided against itself and wondering if it will withstand the assaults on our democracy complete with threats of a new civil war, brother pitted against brother, families split apart, threats of assaults and actual assaults committed against fellow Americans, and an insurrectionist assault on our seat of government.  Just as the Americans of the pre-Civil War United States were worried about the fate of their democracy, I’m worried too.


And when I’m worried, I go to my quiet place to pray just like Jesus recommended in Matthew 6: 6, But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place.  Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.  So, I did that.  I was at the point of a panic attack, and I went into the sanctuary and offered up my worried prayers over a house divided that may not stand regardless of next Tuesday’s election outcomes just as Americans prayed over the concerns so expressed by Abraham Lincoln.  And then I went on Facebook where I saw a post that was passed on by a relative that said: “Jesus please watch over our election.  May good prevail over evil.”  I couldn’t disagree with the prayer as we always want good to prevail over evil and we petition God for his intervention so that our prayers are answered and our side wins.  And I have no doubt that Christians on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line prayed a similar prayer when Abraham Lincoln ran for president and all during the great struggle that ensued where Americans fought against Americans to the death, firm in the belief that God was on their side.  If my relative and I still lived in the same community, I am sure our votes would cancel each other out.


In desperation, I went to the Bible to see what Jesus says about worry.  In Matthew’s gospel Jesus does address worry in the context of the everyday struggle to get by.  He says: Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear.  Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?  He’s talking about the basic necessities which are also some of the issues in our upcoming election.  Issues such as food insecurity, affordable housing, clean drinking water, and healthcare to name a few.  The great debate amongst us is who is deserving and who is going to pay for it?  One side bemoans the fact that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, and the other side sees it as a form of socialism that shouldn’t be their problem.  Jesus continues by saying:  Look at the birds in the sky.  They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns.  Yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth much more than they are?  Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?  And then Jesus tells us not to worry about what to wear.  Notice how the lilies in the field grow, he says.  They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth.  But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these.  He reasons: If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?  People of weak faith?  Hold on there Jesus.  I can’t speak for very many other people, but we here at Community United Methodist Church are pretty strong in our faith and we do all we can to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcoming the stranger, providing a place to live on our church property among other things as we strive to meet the needs of the least of your brothers and sisters.  We’re worried about the future of our country, a part of your kingdom here on earth, and even you said later in Matthew 12: 25 that Every kingdom involved in civil war becomes a wasteland.  Every city or house torn apart by division will collapse.  Not very reassuring and certainly reason to worry.


So, as we lay awake at night worrying about a civil war, the ensuing wasteland, and inevitable collapse, what do we do?  Jesus tells us that even the Gentiles, the non-believers, long for the same things we desire, and he knows we need them.  Instead, he says, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Essentially, what he’s saying is not to sweat the small stuff, it’s covered, and if God has seen to the small stuff, why would you think He’s not concerned about the big stuff, what causes us to lose sleep?  We have to remember and take comfort in what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi:  Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.  He says that if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, all that is worthy of praise.  He says: Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us.  The God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4: 5-9)


Regardless of the outcome of next Tuesday’s election, what divides us will not be resolved.  If anything, it may get even worse before it gets better, and that worries me too.  We must take comfort in the fact that God is in control and that his goodness will eventually win out over evil.  So, when you’re worried do as Jesus recommended: go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place.  Let go and let God.


Let us pray.


Why should we feel discouraged?  Why should the shadows come?  Why should our hearts be lonely and long for heaven and home, when Jesus is our portion?  Our constant friend is he.  Yes, gracious and caring Father, we know that you see us when we are worried and fearful, and we take comfort in knowing that we can bring that which troubles us to you when we go to our quiet place to be alone with you.  We know that our hearts will not be troubled when we hear your tender words, and we know that when we rest upon your goodness, we will lose our doubts and fears.  We know that when we draw closer to you, we are set free from all our cares.  As your eye is on the sparrow, we know you also watch over us and we sing because we’re free.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.