I am easily distracted.
Like a bird or a little kid, I’ll always forget what I’m doing if I see something shiny. And I’m the person who will enter a grocery store with five items on my list and somewhere to be in 20 minutes and end up leaving an hour later with a jar of kimchi, peanut butter cups, preserved lemons, and something called Watermelon Water in addition to 15 other things that I didn't need—only to find when I get home that I forgot to buy eggs.
For those of you who don’t live with me, my scatterbrained self might seem sort of harmless and cute. In reality, however, my distractible nature has much less to do with sparkly rocks or a new flavor of ice cream and much more to do with worry—which may be something many of us have in common right now.
Whether it’s the pandemic or our 24-hour news cycle or something as simple as the weather, there seems to be a lot more to worry about these days. We go about our lives attending to our tasks when suddenly we realize we’ve been grinding our teeth over a problem we can’t solve or a possibility we can’t prevent. What’s going to happen? What are we going to do? How can this ever be fixed? Around and around the questioning goes until we’re too dizzy to think straight.
All too often, it can be a struggle to live in the moment, to accept reality as it is, to trust that our Lord knows what he’s doing and hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves. We look at our world, and we can’t help but wonder if what we can see is stronger than what we can’t.
This is a season of life, for me and for many of us, where it can be hard to believe, to feel that we have been brought from death to life. There is so much to worry about, so much present trouble that Paul’s declarations in our epistle passage seem more like whispers, whispers that are very easy to forget.
And yet Paul keeps on whispering, telling us that we have been raised to new life in Jesus Christ our Lord—who conquered death and the devil, who is living and actively working for the good of all people, who speaks to us from the Word, who knows our fears and our doubts because he felt them too. Through him we have received the free gift of God that is eternal life, a gift that isn’t simply of the future but one that begins now.
Despite the pandemic and the politics, despite even our own worry and doubt, Christ has acted once and for all to free us from the dominion of sin and death. He has freed us from enslavement to anxiety and fear so that we might live for him, a new and gracious Lord who has promised to bring good from even the worst situations.
God knows that you and I will continue worrying, that we’ll struggle to live as though a new light has dawned. He knows and he understands and he calls out to us anyway from the Word and in the Sacrament, reminding us that nothing—“neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Our lives may be messy right now. We may fear what is to come. But the Lord is here in the mess, and he is will not leave until every one of his sheep is gathered into his fold. As he says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, “I will be with you always,” he says. “To the end of the age.” AMEN.