Rocks in First

May 25, 2008

 

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 6:24-34

24"No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look 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? 27can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title and our topic for today is “Rocks in First.” Let’s talk about what that means today.

 

Let me ask you a question: what is one thing that this congregation, you and I and Christians all over the world, have in common with the people of Jesus’s day? What do we have in common, today, this year, with the folks who lived at the time of Jesus?

 

One thing is for sure—we worry! Jesus knew it. The people around Him worried. And, though the world is very different today, we worry, too. Perhaps you do, and so do I. I’m preaching this sermon to myself as much as to anyone else.

 

We do worry, and Jesus cared about that; that’s the first thing we need to realize. Friend, you are so important to Jesus. Jesus cares about your worries. Jesus cares that you worry. And Jesus cares to help you with the things you worry about.  That's the first thing God is telling us in this gospel.   He knows we worry - and He cares.

 

Secondly, this gospel tells us that Jesus cared about what we concentrate on. He said it loud and clear. Take a look at the gospel with me. One of the most confusing statements for Christians over the years is the end of verse 24, where Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Folks say, “Why is that so? Does God not want us to be prosperous? Does He not want us to be wealthy?” Nothing could be farther from the truth. God wants us to do well. God wants us to prosper. God wants us to have the good things of this world.

 

There is a better translation of the word ‘wealth’ that you see here in the gospel. And once I tell you what it is, the passage will become very clear. The word is better translated ‘greed.’ We cannot serve both God and greed. We move away from greed when we realize that we are a generous people. We share what we have. Greedy people don’t share; generous people do. We realize that we participate in the flow of blessings and that even as we participate in that, we stop worrying about it, and we become the prosperous people that God wants us to be.

 

Jesus cares about what we concentrate on. Throughout this gospel, He’s saying, don’t think about the lack. “What are we going to do?” “What are we going to wear?” “How are we going to afford what we eat?” He says, please, please, think about the positive. Think about the promise. Think about the birds of the air that are provided for, and the lilies of the field that are clothed more beautifully than Solomon. Think about the positive possibility, He said, and don’t let yourselves get lost in the thoughts of lack.

 

Jesus urges us to lift up our thoughts. And as we do, God can bless us. When we put the kingdom of God first, when we know that God is generous, when we know that God is on our side and wants to bless us with His divine favor, then we are able to be in the flow of blessing that God wants for us. I believe that is the powerful message that Jesus is trying to convey.

 

As we set our minds on the things that are really important, as we set our minds on the willingness of God to bless us, we are freeing God up to bless us. And that’s what God wants for us—the blessing, the prosperity, the abundance.

 

I’d like to tell you a story today about a woman who was worried and troubled about many things. She found that her days were so busy, and yet she felt that she was spinning her wheels and wasn’t accomplishing the things that she needed to accomplish. She felt that she wasn’t experiencing prosperity in her life and the kind of blessings she needed.

 

So, she went to a teacher, and she said to this teacher, “Oh, teacher, I am worried and troubled about so many things. I am so very busy, but I don’t seem to be accomplishing all that I need to. Can you help me?”

 

And the teacher said, “Yes, I can. Come with me.” He led her into a very bright room. In this room was a table with two chairs. He sat in one and invited her to sit in the other. On this table was a beautiful glass bowl. The glass bowl was filled with shiny green pebbles, each about the size of a nickel. There was just about an inch or so of space between the top of the pebbles and the edge of the bowl. He said, “This bowl represents your day.”

 

She said, “What are the pebbles?”

 

He said, “The pebbles are 15 minutes each, and the bowl is filled with the things that you’ve been doing day by day, the phone calls, the emails, the TV watching, the chores and errands.”

 

She noticed that also on that table there were rocks, about the size of dinner rolls, smooth rocks. She said, “What are these?”

 

The teacher said, “These rocks are what are really important to you, the things that make you feel that you’ve accomplished something in life.”

 

She noticed that each of these rocks had a piece of white tape on it that she could write on. The teacher said to her, “There are three things that you have been missing in your life, but if you do them, I think that you will have much less worry.”

 

She said to him, “What are they?”

 

He said, “Here, take this pen,” and she took it. “The first thing you must do is label the rocks. Write the name of each rock; write what’s important to you.”

 

So she took a rock, thought a bit, and wrote on it, ‘Family’. “I want to have a good relationship with my family; I want to be a good member of my family.” She set the rock aside. She took another rock and on it she wrote, ‘My health.’ She said, “I know I should spend some time and energy taking good care of myself, but it the opportunity just seems to slip away. Even as I’ve been neglecting to spend time with my family in favor of chores, my health is something I’ve neglected, too.”

 

She took a third rock, and she dreamed a big dream. She said, “I want to feel closer to God.  I want to read my Bible and be closer to God by going to church regularly.” So she wrote on the third rock, ‘Spirit.’

 

The teacher then said, “There are many other rocks and many other things that I’m sure are important to you, but let’s take these three for now. Put them into the bowl with the pebbles. You must not go above the edge of the bowl; there are only 24 hours in the day.” And the woman tried, and she got one of the rocks in, sort of.  It was bulging uncomfortably over the rim of the bowl.

 

She took another rock and tried to put it into the bowl, and it just wouldn’t go. It stuck way up above the edge of the bowl. And the third rock just sat on top. She said, “How discouraging! All those pebbles represent things that I feel I must do during the day; how am I going to get in the things that are really important?”

 

The teacher said, “You’ve done two things well. You have labeled the rocks.  That is the first important thing.  And you have selected the ones that you will pursue this day. But now, you have a problem, because you can’t get them all in. I have a new solution for you.”

 

He said, “This is the best news of all,” and he reached under the table and produced a beautiful, clear glass, empty bowl. He said, “This is today.” He put it in front of her and said, “How will you fill it?”

 

She knew the wise thing to do. She took the rocks, and she put them in the bowl first. "Ah, you have done the second thing well.  You have put the rocks in first." He said, “Now, what about all those pebbles?”

 

She smiled as she picked up the bowlful of pebbles and emptied them into the new bowl. The pebbles filled the bowl, right up to the edge. The teacher said, “Ah, but there are some pebbles left over.”

 

She said, “Well, they’re only pebbles, and tomorrow is another day.’”

 

The teacher said to her, “You have learned well. You have labeled the rocks. You have chosen the ones for today. You have put the rocks in first, and you have let the pebbles fill in around the rocks. I think,” said the teacher, “that you will have much less worry today, because you have chosen well.”

 

My dear friends, Jesus wants us to worry less and live more. If we go into our day resolving that we will do likewise, that we will label the things that are truly the rocks and select the ones that we feel we can do today and let the pebbles fill in around, we will have fewer worries and more joy. I believe we will be fulfilling the will of Jesus for us, that we worry less and live more.

 

 God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

  

© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski