Psalm 65; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Matthew 6:25-34

Final in the series “Grateful”

This morning we conclude our November series that has focused on gratitude.  We’ve sought to increase our gratitude level and to grow in expressing our gratitude through a variety of suggested practices. We’ve been reminded that we have many reasons to give God thanks. We’ve learned that a lifestyle of gratitude leads to improved physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual health. Once again, there is a sermon notes page for those who wish to follow along.

The story is told about a college student who planned to meet up with several of his friends the next night.  He wanted to be sure to connect with all his friends and not to miss out on the fun they were having.  So, he neurotically scheduled time with each of them every 50 or so minutes throughout the evening until the early morning hours.  He was sure it would all work out, and he’d have a great time.

But then, during the next day, he got an email from another friend, who invited him to go with him to a Red Sox game and then to a party.  Unfortunately, he had already confirmed his plans with his friends and was too embarrassed to cancel. So, he missed out on a better offer – why?  All because he had planned one day too soon.  From that time on, the student was always hesitant and tentative in making plans, because he wanted to be free to change them in case a better opportunity came along.

Patrick McGinnis wrote that piece, describing the attitude and lifestyle of his group of Harvard MBA-student friends in 2003.  Living in the aftermath of 9/11, which happened while they were applying for graduate school, he reflected, “All you wanted to do was live life to the fullest every second.”  The result?  McGinnis and his friends wouldn’t commit to anything. Though their condition had first been described in 1996, McGinnis coined the term to describe their affliction:  FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out.[1] 

FOMO is defined as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.”[2] 

Researchers point out that FOMO is widespread today because of the prevalence of smartphones and social media.  It is reported that 62% of adults in the U.S. and 75% of young adults suffer from FOMO, and one-third say that being without their cellphone leads them to feel anxious.[3]

If someone invites you to their house for dinner, but you hesitate because you want to keep your options open, hoping that someone who’s a better cook and host might ask you, you’ve experienced FOMO. If you’ve accepted an invitation but then regretted it because a better offer came later, you’ve experienced FOMO. It can apply to a weekend party, to a promotion at work, to a special relationship with a spouse, child, grandchild or friend, to an opportunity to serve at church or in the community, or in many other situations, but it always involves a helpless sense that you’re missing out on something bigger, a worry that your life will somehow be lessened by committing to this rather than that.

But Jesus says, “Don’t worry about your life.” (Matt 6:25) If that isn’t enough, he adds, “Don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink or wear. … Can you add an hour to your life by worrying?”  (Matt 6:25, 27) Thanks, Jesus, that’s so helpful.

There, gathered with a crowd on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus goes on to describe how God provides for creation.  As birds fly overhead and call out to one another, Jesus draws the crowd’s attention upward.  “Look at the birds of the air that don’t work yet God feeds them,” he says.  Noticing the colorful wildflowers swaying in the breeze, he says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how lovely they are though they don’t toil or spin, yet God clothes them in incomparable beauty.”  Then he assures them that God always finds a way to care for us: “You are more valuable than them.” 

Jesus and his audience shared in the Jewish collective identity story, with its key aspect of remembering. 

The worship and liturgy of Israel capture the aspect of remembering who God is and what God has done, as, for example, we heard in Psalm 65.  The psalmist praises God as Creator and Ruler of nature. He celebrates God as provider of rains and grains, water and food.  God is worshiped for forgiving sins and answering prayer.  God is worthy of praise and of the grateful response from God’s people.

The festivals and feasts they observed embodied remembrance.  For instance, Passover. Remember you were once slaves in Egypt, and God provided a way out of slavery. 

Remember you were once wandering and hungry in the wilderness, and God provided manna.  God gave them manna enough for today; however, when greed kicked in and they hoarded more than they needed, they discovered it spoiled and was full of worms the next day. They tried to hold on to yesterday’s miracle, rather than looking for today’s. Churches try that sometimes, too.  Something wonderful happens in a service, event or ministry, and we try to systematize it and replicate it over and over again, making it the “way we’ve always done it.” But it never goes quite the same when it’s repeated.

In pointing us to consider creation, Jesus is inviting us not to worry, but to remember who God is and what God does. Think for a moment about who you know God to be in your own experience and what God has done in your life. Maybe for you God is Creator, Provider Friend, Father, or Redeemer. You might consider that God is merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving, or just. Take that red leaf in your Messenger, and jot down a word or two about God’s character or work in your life for which you are grateful. (Pause) As you leave via the Crawford Street entrance today, pin your leaf to our Gratitude tree outside the Kitchen as an act of giving thanks to God.

Jesus helps us remember God and to trust.  Gratitude overcomes FOMO and worry as we remember and give thanks.  We could incorporate remember who God is and what God does into our daily prayer life.  We might write a word about God in our gratitude journals each day.

FOMO and worry come from a sense of unhappiness about our current circumstances.  Being grateful helps us take stock of our lives and can give us a new perspective on the present moment. We learn to live in and appreciate the present moment for what it is:  a gift from God, regardless of the circumstances.  As our theme scripture throughout this series has reminded us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Jesus not only helps us remember and trust; he also helps us prioritize our pursuits. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you as well,” he said (Matt 6:33).  Or here’s how The Message paraphrase expresses Jesus’ words: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Jesus invites us to participate in what God is doing. It is known as the kingdom of God.  God’s kingdom is not simply about heaven in the afterlife; it’s also about the way we live now. It is describing in various ways in scripture, but might be summed up as justice, peace, joy and love in the Holy Spirit.  Jesus invites us to participate in what God is doing, to join with God in revealing the kingdom in our lives, our congregation, our community, and our world. Doing so is a remedy to FOMO and worry.

How might we join with God in kingdom work?  Whenever you are spreading encouragement and hope to others, you are doing God’s work. Wherever you speak up against injustice and for peaceful resolution, you are doing God’s work. Whatever you do to promote understanding and mutual respect (even love) between people, you are doing God’s work.  And there are many other ways to join in God’s work.

It happens as people give up their free time to serve at the Holy Host desk or to visit someone who’s lonely.  It happens when people give up their bridge game or coffee klatch to prepare a mailing or stuff bulletins. It happens when people give up time on Wednesdays to prepare and serve meals, teach children Bible stories and songs, or meet with peers to share life and grow as disciples together. It happens when people give up an evening to sing or to ring bells or to gather to do behind-the-scenes work of the life of the church. It happens when people serve by tending the audio and video systems, so we can all hear clearly in the Sanctuary and so that we can engage others through radio and livestream with the message of Christ.

We can join in God’s kingdom work by participating in these and other ministries and teams here at St. Andrew’s and by serving others in our community. We participate in the what God is doing through our prayers for the church and world, our presence and engagement at worship and other events, offering our resources time, talent and treasure to help accomplish the mission, serving others with our love and energy, and bearing witness to Christ as we bless others with the way we live our lives. 

Today you are invited express your gratitude to God and to join in God’s work by submitting an estimate of giving for 2020. You likely received one in the mail, or you have one in your Messenger. In a moment, I will pray and ask you to fill out both sides of your card. Then put it in the offering plate, as an expression of gratitude. Since this an estimate of giving, you can adjust it in the future should your circumstances change by contacting the Deb Guthrie-Sammet in the church office.

Jesus invites us to let go of our fear of missing out and to participate in the work that God is doing and wants to do in 2020 through St. Andrew’s and in the world.  Let us pray.


[1] Adam Hamilton, “FOMO, a Fear Not to Take Lightly,” Thrive Global, https://thriveglobal.com/stories/fomo/, 03/13/2018. Accessed 11/23/19.  Elizabeth Scott, “What Does FOMO Mean and How Do I Deal with It?”, VeryWellMind, https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-with-fomo-4174664, 07/24/19. Accessed 11/23/19.

[2] Eric Barker, “This Is the Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out,” Time.com, https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4358140/overcome-fomo/. Accessed 11/21/19.

[3] Cited by Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, “Real Rest for the Weary,” Lutheran Hour Ministries, https://www.lutheranhour.org/sermon.asp?articleid=25102, 07/06/2014. Accessed 11/23/19.

Comments are closed.