If you are one of those who believe that worship should leave you feeling lighter, unburdened, and set free, then this is the week for you. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NRSV). What could be better than that? In a text that is full of an admission of suffering and a call to discipline, to hear the call to cast anxiety away is a monumental ask, yet a powerful gift and promise. Peter is telling us that it is about perspective. He isn’t saying the problems will go away. But he is inviting us to not let the suffering control us. Cast your inclination to worry away. Trust in the Lord because he cares for you. What a blessing and a promise!
This leads, of course, to praise. Psalm 68 is inviting us sing praise to God’s name, to sing of this care for those seemingly without power and place in society, to sing of the homeless finding shelter, of the setting free those unjustly imprisoned, of the earth itself being blessed with life-giving rain. Sing of the goodness of God at work through the service and witness of the church at work in the world. We are singing God’s story as it intertwines with our story. We are singing of promise even in difficult times. And we are singing a reminder that none of us have to face our suffering alone. We are surrounded and supported by the caring God experienced in the loving community of faith.
There needs to be a releasing moment, a casting moment in worship this week. We often need physical actions to support our spiritual realities. Is this an altar call time, or a prayer station where we can write down a worry or anxiety that we want to let go of and cast it away? Do we do this corporately or individually, in a time of confession and assurance or in silence? How do we invite worshipers to truly get the sense of letting go of something, or handing over something so that it burdens them no longer?
Be aware that the mood of both the epistle text and the psalm is one of joy. Yes, we are talking about serious things, suffering and enemies and difficulties aplenty. But the call is to know and experience joy in the depths of our being, even while we wrestle. Because that is the sign of faith, the sign of trusting in the one who cares for us. Make space for the expression of exuberant joy on this final week of Eastertide as we embrace the promise of the Risen Lord.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.