Sermon given at Benefice Service 19.2.17
Readings: OT/Epistle Romans 8: 18-25 Gospel Matthew 6: 25-34
It is really interesting at the moment to watch my three 2year old grandchildren developing speech and using it – usually to get their own way!! So I was much amused when my daughter told me a lovely story about her friend’s child – the grandmother found her lying on the floor naked and enquired what she was doing, to which the two-year old replied recalcitrantly “I’m not co-operating with Mummy!”
Some people can take these words of Jesus a bit too literally and wait to hear from Jesus each morning as to what they should wear that day! Which is rather missing the point of what Jesus is trying to tell us! We’re not meant to literally WAIT for Jesus to instruct us exactly what to do, whether that’s choosing what to wear each day or how to handle a particular situation – we could wait so long that we missed the opportunity to do some good that Jesus has lined up for us that will help build God’s Kingdom around us.
One of the downsides of TV and modern media is that we become ever more aware of the complexity of our world – and we can be so overwhelmed by it that we end up doing nothing and worrying endlessly. When Jesus says “Do not worry about your life” the tense of the verb that is translated as ‘worry’ actually signifies an ongoing anxiety. Of course God knows we need anxiety sometimes to prompt us into action, sometimes life-saving action if it’s running away from fire or rescuing someone in danger – but Jesus knows that God doesn’t want us to suffer from paralysing and continuous anxiety.
Paul too acknowledges that we’re often surrounded by great difficulties but he points us to the fact that behind the scenes God has a purpose and a plan and he points us to the marvellous and life-assuring presence of God himself, who loves us and, in Jesus, gave himself for us. It is a breathtaking way of stating the Christian message.
One of the threads running through the Sermon on the Mount is that God is our heavenly Father who wants the best for us. He cares for the created world and provides for its people. The disciple who chooses to serve God will find that God provides everything that is needed for life.
Two main commands are given. The first is negative: ‘do not worry about your life’ and the second is positive: ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’. To seek the kingdom is to enter the new reality and new life that Jesus brings. That new life has an ethical dimension – it affects the way you live – hence the reference to ‘righteousness’. Jesus is stating (as he will again at the end of the sermon in Matthew 7) that those who devote themselves to obeying his teaching will find that God will provide everything that they need.
Having heard a little of the book Little Women being dramatized on Radio 4 recently I decided to read it myself again – and the thing that is most forcefully striking me is the very strong emphasis on the 4 girls being strongly encouraged to develop good character – so far I haven’t found any emphasis on being successful!
Actually one of the childhood books I remember best is “What Katy Did” and its sequel, “What Katy Did Next”. I don’t remember the details of the story but what did imprint itself on my mind was the message that to live life to the full we should live each day as it comes and make the most of it!! Which pretty well sums up Jesus’s words – especially when combined with his command that we should seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. Only a trusting relationship with God can be truly liberating and allow us to live fully in the present, without fear of the future.
Trusting and relying on the one who freely provides for his creation may seem risky, but it can release a person from the endless worry that drives selfish behaviour. Trusting God’s provision doesn’t mean spending our money now and failing to provide for a pension and care in our old age – but it does mean that we shouldn’t invest all our time and effort into looking after number one!!
We are entering a period of uncertainty in our world – what with the swing away from global perspectives to a national one, the rising power of China, the unrest in Muslim countries, and concern about Putin’s Russia. Not to mention what the effects Brexit may have on our own incomes and futures, and our concerns about the NHS.
So now, perhaps more than ever in recent times, we need to remember that God is our heavenly Father in whom we really can put our trust – the one who does have an overall plan for the world and who calls us to co-operate with him to build his Kingdom for the benefit of us all – and not just to lie naked on the floor doing nothing like that delightful 2 year old!! God is calling us into communion with him – so let’s not resist it!!
Being aware of God’s provision brings peace and security to our lives – and it also compels us to share that peace with others.
We’re not meant to keep the gospel, the good news, to ourselves!