LAKEWOOD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
2601 54th Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33712
On land originally inhabited by the Tocabaga
Date: May 21, 2023
Scripture Lesson: 1 Peter 4:12-16, 5:6-11
Sermon: Cast Your Cares Upon God
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
This past week I spoke with someone I have known for years about his childhood. I had assumed that he had a typical upbringing in the 50’s and 60’s — until our recent conversation. I found out the this person’s father died when he was 5 or 6 years old. And then his mother died when he was in what was then called junior high. And his brother, 7 years older, was his guardian.
The two brothers lived together in the familial home. Then when he was in high school, the brother was drafted – this was during the Vietnam War. So, the brother went off to the service. And my friend continued to live in the family home by himself and to finish high school. He got a check for about $84 a month from Social Security and that is what he used to pay the utilities, etc. The house was paid for. As he told me about all of this, he did not seem sad or burdened. This was simply his story. His ‘normal.’
I must have looked appalled or aghast as I listened because my friend added, “Things were different then.” Yes, they were. But still. A high schooler left to raise himself? I asked him, how was it being by yourself? Were you lonely? No, not really. He had lots of friends and their parents helped to look out for him. One parent of a friend saw to it that he was not drafted. And he had lots of extended family in the area and they were looking out for him. He had a community of support and he was able to move on with his life, get an education, work productively in his chosen career, and not really be significantly negatively impacted by his situation.
This morning, we heard from First Peter, verses addressed to a people living under duress; in adverse circumstances. One thing they are told is not to bring more suffering upon themselves by doing evil like “being a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a destroyer of another’s rights.” Note that – destroyer of another’s rights. We can relate to that! Some of our supposed Christian elected officials need to be reading their Bibles.
In addition to not doing evil themselves, the people who are suffering are told to cast their cares on God. In another translation, ‘cares’ is translated ‘anxiety.’ “Cast all your anxiety on God.” Well, we, too, know about cares and anxiety in spite of the fact that we live in a time of access to amazing material comforts and medical care. Still, who does not have anxiety – about death, health issues, finances, the future, global warming, our children and grandchildren, our society, those who are being left out and left behind, the rights that are being taken away from people, gun violence, and so much more. No matter how much money we have or how comfortable and stable our life may seem, being a human being involves worry and anxiety. And despite all of our accomplishments and progress as a species the experiencing of anxiety is on the rise on our context. Maybe this is influenced by the internet which makes us aware of so much more pain in the world and in the lives of others. And with more information sometimes it seems there is more to be afraid of. No more ‘ignorance is bliss.’ Anxiety is on the rise. And medical science has shown that the stress of anxiety has negative effects upon our physical health which gives us even more to worry about! Articles abound about how to calm your anxieties through breathing, therapy, processing, relaxation exercises, etc. First Peter invites us to add cast your cares, your anxieties, upon God as another tool in our kit to decrease our worries and our fears.
So I am interested in this advice, cast your cares upon God. We can be sure that this includes prayer. Offering our worries, our fears, our anxiety, our grief, to God, how ever we may understand God, in prayerful devotion. That is very important and can be extremely effective. We are invited to unburden ourselves to God. Through prayer, meditation, journaling, walking the labyrinth, and other spiritual disciplines. I also think this casting your cares upon God is something that can happen when we gather as a faith community and share our concerns.
The advisors are the governing board of our church. They meet regularly to discuss things like personnel issues, property concerns, finances. Always finances! But at the beginning of each meeting, we begin with ‘check in.’ Each person is invited to share what is going on with them. And then we extend that to the people of the church community for whom we are concerned. We are at the meeting to be the church. And yes, that involves administration, but I would hate to think that someone came to an advisors meeting heavily burdened and all we did was discuss the bank balance and the plumbing problem. We are here to incarnate the love of Christ to one another, to share each other’s burdens and joys. That’s why we bother with the budget.
Cast your cares upon God. To me, that is what we are here as a congregation to do. And yes, we pray, but we also share our burdens, our anxieties, our cares, in community, in relationship with one another, and receive needed support and sympathy. How did my friend make it through his stressful childhood? With the support of a community of family and friends. We are here to be that community for each other.
I remember one year, in stewardship season, I think, we had people in the congregation talk about what the church means to them and why they come to church. One person mentioned, that she comes to church in part because “somebody may need me.” Cast your cares. We come with our needs and cares and anxieties but we also come knowing someone else may come needing us – to listen, to offer spiritual support, to care. Yes, at church on Sunday there is singing and praying and praising and teaching, but there is also what appears to be casual conversation that may very well be an opportunity for us to share cares and worries and anxieties and know that they are received with love and concern. In these exchanges we incarnate the love and care of God to one another.
So I would like to invite you to take a few moments to think about what cares, worries, or anxieties are weighing on your heart this morning. What is keeping you up at night? Maybe something in your own life. Maybe something in the life of someone you care about. Maybe something in our society involving concern for others negatively impacted by societal forces. So you are invited to just reflect for a few moments on the cares and anxieties that you are carrying within you at this moment.
Now I would like to invite you to turn to someone else who is here this morning and have a brief conversation about your cares and concerns. You can talk with someone you know or someone who is new to you. I encourage you to consider talking with someone that you don’t typically engage with. You can get up and move. You can adjust the chairs to suit your conversation. So, take 5 minutes or so to share something that is weighing on your heart with someone who is here this morning and to listen to the cares of another.
SMALL GROUP CONVERSATION
Is there anyone who would like to comment on this experience before we wrap up?
Cast your cares upon God. That is one of the things we do at church each week. Yes, it can be a private, prayerful, experience, but it can also be a social experience done in community as we have done here today. We are incarnating the love of God to one another as Jesus did. We are sharing the cares and burdens we bring. We are offering solace and spiritual support by listening and caring. We are embodying Divine Love to one another. And if you did not come with concerns that you need to unburden, you can be uplifted knowing that you helped to ease the burden of someone else by hearing their cares.
We close with a prayer from contemporary mystic Andrew Harvey:
Make of my heart
A vast bed of peace
Where you can lay down your heart
And rest from the agony that harrows it
From all we are and continue to do.
As you comfort me, so may I comfort you.
[Andrew Harvey, contemporary mystic]
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