Bethany united church
Is there anyone here this morning who has never been anxious or stressed out
about something? Those people can go home. This sermon is not for you. For
the rest of you, this may be the time God speaks to you.
The makers of Maalox came up with a series of commercials a few years ago
that highlighted situations which, in their estimation, were tailor-made for the use
of their product. In one of those commercials, one is taken into a home with kids
running around screaming, the dog knocking over a vase, the bathtub spilling
water onto the floor. The toast is smoking in the toaster. The doorbell is ringing
and so is the telephone. The camera then zeroes in on the haggard look of the
mother who, at this point, could easily qualify for a nerve transplant. It’s then that
one hears the announcement: “It’s another one of those Maalox moments.”
Maalox, of course, is for upset stomachs and a great many people have had their
stomachs upset by the stress and worry and anxiety common to life. And if it
isn’t your stomach that’s affected, I’ll bet some other part of you is. Maalox
moments occur all too frequently. Rare is the life that hasn’t had a significant
share of those moments.
We live in an age when anxiety is at an all time high, when tensions are mounting
to increasingly steep levels, when stress and worry are often the order of the day.
A glance at the pharmaceutical statistics proves the point. Valium, an anti-
anxiety drug, is the most prescribed drug in North America today. Close behind it
is a drug called Tagamet, used to treat ulcers which are often the result of worry
carried too far. Of the top selling over-the-counter treatments, Maalox (for upset
stomach, Excedrin (for headaches), and Rolaids (an antacid) are near the top of
the list. Their distinct role is to treat the physical effects that come to us
compliments of stress, worry and anxiety. Read John 14: 23-29.
It seems apparent that the words of Jesus in the gospel
today haven’t been taken seriously by many people. Jesus tells His disciples
(that includes us) in essence “I leave behind peace. I give you My own peace.
You must not be distressed or fearful.” Jesus left peace as a bequest. “I’m
giving you peace” and He fully expects that peace will reign supreme in the
hearts and minds of His followers.
So why is it that so few of us realize that peace? Why is that our lives are filled
so much more with Maalox moments than they are with peaceful periods?
Maybe part of it is the fact that we often get worked up over things which we can’t
do anything about.
There is a legend about a burdened old man who, along his tiresome way, met
an angel. The old man was bent under the enormous weight of a great burlap
sack across his shoulders and on his back. It was so heavy it was a wonder the man could walk. The angel said, “What is it you have in the sack?” The man replied, “In there are my worries!” The angel said “Empty them out, let me see them.” With great effort, the old man lowered the huge sack from his back and turned out the contents. First out came yesterday, and then tomorrow. And the angel picked up yesterday and threw it aside and said, “You don’t need that because yesterday is in the hands of God and no amount of worrying will change it.” Then the angel picked up tomorrow and said, “You don’t need this either because tomorrow is in the hands of God and no amount of worrying will change it.” In the end, the old man had no worries to put in the sack. It’s so often the case that much of what we worry about is out of our control. And Maalox moments can be the result of things we can do nothing about. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous pray a great prayer that we should think of adopting. Some of you probably already have – not because you have a drinking problem, but because the prayer is well known and practical for everybody. It’s called the serenity prayer and reads like this: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. That prayer contains an awful lot of good sense. Within it is the notion that there are things that happen to us in life that despite how much we would wish them different, they will not be different. We, if we are to survive, must accept those things as they are, doing so with grace and dignity. In the book Being Hopeful, Being Human
the author Walter Underwood talks of a man who developed a worry table. He wrote down all the things he was worried about, then classified them. He quickly discovered that forty percent of the time he was worried about things that would probably never happen; thirty percent of the time he stewed about decisions he had already made; twelve percent of the time he fretted about becoming ill; ten percent of the time he was troubled about his friends and their children; and eight percent of the time he was worried about immediate problems that he needed to solve. After reviewing his worry table, it became obvious that he could discard 92% of his worries. That’s not a bad exercise for us to adopt. Perhaps in constructing our own worry table, we’d find that one of the reasons why we have more Maalox moments than peaceful periods might be that we worry too much about things which will either “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Then there is the matter of getting all worked up about the things we lack, failing to realize and appreciate all the things we have. I once read a great philosophy about worry that I want to share with you. It goes like this: There are only two things to worry about in life, and that’s being healthy or being sick. If you’re healthy, you have nothing to worry about. If you’re sick,
you have two things to worry about, getting better or getting worse. If you’re getting better, you have nothing to worry about. If you’re getting worse, you have only two things to worry about, surviving or dying. If you survive, you have nothing to worry about. If you die, you have two things to worry about, going to heaven or going to hell. If you’re going to heaven, you have nothing to worry about. If you go to hell, you’ll be so busy shaking hands with your friends that you won’t have any time to worry. Sometime what it takes to go from a Maalox moment to a peaceful period comes down to a matter of keeping things in perspective. There is a story about JC Penney, the tycoon who founded the large chain of women’s fashion stores that bear his name. He suffered tremendous financial losses during the Depression. He worried about them to such an extent that he had a nervous breakdown and was confined to a sanitarium for months. The doctors worked with him but Penney didn’t improve. He became increasingly worse until one nigh he decided he was near death and so he wrote farewell notes to each of his family. The next morning, to his great surprise, he was still breathing. He hadn’t died. As he contemplated his fate, he heard a number of voices singing a tune that sounded vaguely familiar to him. Struggling out of bed, he shuffled down the hall to the chapel, the source of the singing. As he opened the door, he heard the words that were being sung:
Mr. Penney remembered that song from boyhood. It evoked within him an overwhelming sense of care, the kindness and love of Almighty God. He suddenly began to picture his blessings instead of his worries. He began to take note of the fact that there were a lot of things right in his life, that he had a lot of things going for him that perhaps others didn’t. He was blessed by family, friends, and business associates who never left his side. God had indeed taken care of him and blessed him, but he was too filled with worry to take notice. JC Penney began to get well quickly and he went on to live to the ripe old age of 92. He never forgot the old song that enabled him to see his blessings instead of his worries, to realize all he had instead of all he lost. So it is with many of us. We worry about getting ahead. We worry about accomplishing something. We worry about paying off a debt. We worry about meeting a deadline. They are legitimate and important worries. But we fail, in the meantime, to appreciate and relish the immense amount of blessings we still have and which will still be there regardless of how successful or unsuccessful we are with our ventures.
There are a number of reasons we may suffer a lot more Maalox moments than peaceful periods, like dwelling on what we’ve lost rather than what we have, expecting life to be perfect, free from flaws, interruptions, mistakes and turmoil, or even simply from focusing too much on ourselves and not enough on others. But Jesus offers us His peace, a peace that passes all understanding. That means it is greater than we can ever “conjure up” for ourselves, no matter how many spas you go to or massages you have. His peace is a bequest to us. It is sufficient, lasting and better than any therapy we could find. So let’s grab our inheritance and learn to live less in the Maalox moments and more in the peaceful periods of life with Jesus.
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