(Photo: Not ‘Lilies of the field’, Snowdrops from Blarney will have to make do…)
Sermon for the Second Sunday Before Lent, Year A, Matthew 6:25:34
How you can tell when it’s going to be a rotten day:
You wake up face down on the pavement.
You call The Samaritans and they put you on hold.
You see loads of reporters and camera crews waiting outside your office.
Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
Your twin sister forgot your birthday.
Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a Scary biker gang on the motorway.
Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.
The bird singing outside your window is a Vulture.
You wake up and your braces on your teeth are locked together.
Your income tax check bounces.
You put both contact lenses in the same eye.
Your wife says, “Good morning, Bill”, and your name is George.
These days are for many a time of great worry and testing; things that we took for granted can no longer be viewed that way. Many of us never worried about the fact that there would be enough money to pay the bills. The mortgage was high but then so was the income to pay for it. Food prices were amongst the highest in the world, but then so was our standard of living. For so many people in this country the difference today from just a short couple of years ago could not be greater. Then it seemed that the sky was the limit, now our feet our firmly on the ground, in a queue, outside the social welfare office…
Even if we ourselves are not out of work or in a desperate financial situation, we certainly know people who are; they are among our family members and friends. We have found ourselves helping people who would be really stuck otherwise. All of us are in this together, especially so in the family of God.
Speaking of God, where is He in all of this? Does He just sit up in heaven and shake His head as He watches us make a complete mess of things? No, His response is very clear, so clear in fact that at least until we grasp its truth it can be infuriating! He says:
“Do not worry.”
It is not difficult to picture the scene: You have just opened a ‘final notice’ letter from the bank; you simply do not have the money to meet all those who are demanding it from you. You feel a deep anger at the former government and at the bank which is demanding your money. You feel the sheer weight and pressure of responsibility upon you to provide for your family, to feed them, to clothe then and to provide a roof over their heads and you would like to find any way possible out of this mess. Then in the midst of all of this, the Lord Jesus says “Do not worry!” ‘How could He possibly understand my situation?’ you say. Actually He understands your situation more than you will ever know, and that is the core of it; He wants you to trust Him. He wants you to hand over to Him every burden, every weight and the pressure of all your responsibility, the worry, anxiety, guilt, anger and pain. Hand it over to Him, for He is more than able to take it from you and more than able to deal with it and He is more than able to provide for you and your family for all of your needs. You may lose your home but you will not be homeless, you may not be tasting Pate Fois Gras anytime soon, but you and your family will have more than enough to eat. You may not be able to drive your dream car, but you will be able to get to the places you need to. Your clothes may not be the newest and the best anymore, but you will have all that you need.
God will provide. Our heavenly Father feeds the birds and He provides the lilies of the field with more beautiful apparel than the finest of Kings. God knows what we need, in fact our Heavenly Father knows what we need better than we do.
Is there a catch? Well there is and there isn’t. (Red Herring alert) God will provide for us, He provides enough for the whole world, the only reason so many are without is because countries like ours hoard so much and it is our greed ultimately that leads to the deaths of so many who do not have enough food in other countries. Yes there are other factors too, whether it be tyrannical regimes in power in those countries, famines and poor distribution because of bribes and corruption and sheer apathy amongst their leaders to do anything to help. But when we look at our problems in the context of the world in which we live rather than just on how we used to live then it does help to put some kind of sobering perspective on things.
In this life we cannot have everything that we want, there will be good times but there will be bad times too.
There’s a great magazine called Leadership Journal and this is what the editor Marshall Shelley wrote in November of last year: My wife’s father is a farmer. He’s spent a lifetime raising wheat, corn, beef, and along the way some sheep and chickens. One morning while I followed him around the farm, we talked about the differences between living in the town and in the country.
“Most people who live in towns that I know expect each year to be better than the last,” he said. “They think it’s normal to get an annual raise and to earn more this year than you did last year. As a farmer, I have good years and bad years. It all depends on rain at the right time, dry days for harvest, and no damaging storms. Some years we have more; some years we have less.”
It was one of those indelible moments of stunning clarity. And that “law of the harvest”—some years being fat and others being lean—applies to much more than agriculture. Growing in spiritual maturity requires gratefully accepting the “seasons of more” and the “seasons of less” that God weaves into specific areas of our lives—our friendships, marriage, career, finances, ministry, and spiritual growth.
So our Lord and Saviour does not want us to worry, He wants us to trust Him, but is there anything else that He wants us to do (now we get back to the ‘is there a catch?’ question.) It is of course not really a catch, He simply wants us to stop being negative, He wants us to replace the worry, the fear, the anxiety the guilt, anger and pain with something that is good and positive. He wants to change our outlook on life, He wants to replace the worry with faith and He wants us to not strive after the things of this world but to strive instead after the things of God; His Kingdom and His righteousness and if we do that He will take care of the rest. We keep our eyes focussed on Jesus throughout the ups and downs of life and all (ultimately) will be well.
“But what about tomorrow – my bills are not going to magically disappear, my debtors are not going to just melt away?” Well they might, but what is the Lord’s response to our worries about tomorrow? Simply this:
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (v.34)
Tomorrow is the future for us, but for God who exists outside of time and for whom every one of our days is a present reality it is (or should be) of no concern to us. As the old saying goes “Do not worry about tomorrow because God is already there.”
Of course the Lord Jesus is right; today’s concerns are enough for today. We take our problems one at a time and present them to Him in the place of prayer. In each thing, one at a time we place our dependence upon God and as we do so we can literally feel the weight of those things being lifted off from us.
We can all think of times in our lives where we have been in a situation where we could do nothing else than hand everything over to God. What was it like when you did that? Did you survive? I can remember when I was a new and very inexperienced curate (and the rector was away) having to do several funerals in a few days – I don’t know how I did it, but I realised afterwards that God helped me. I know that many of you have enough worries and concerns and difficulties and problems to last a lifetime (or indeed several lifetimes). So may you draw enormous comfort from the simple truth that our reading from Matthew’s gospel reminds us of this morning; the Lord Jesus says to you and to me:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry.”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you know each of us so well and you understand every aspect of our lives so completely. You know about tomorrow and every day after that. Lord, we choose right now to let go, to release our tight grip upon all those things which cause us to worry; you know what they are. We let them go and we give each of them to you now. Lord, come and fill our hearts and lives and our homes with your love, with your peace and with your presence. Help us to keep our eyes fixed upon you always, in the knowledge that you will never let go of us and no one or nothing can ever snatch us out of your grasp. We are with you now and we thank you that no matter what we always will be with you and you with us. With all of our hearts we thank you … Amen.