Sermon for Harvest Festival (I Timothy 2.1-7 and Matthew 6.25-33)
I don’t know if you’re the sort of person who worries about things. I have a list of things that I need to get done on any particular day and I worry if any of them are left undone at end of the day. Mike, on the other hand, is completely different ‘kettle of fish’, and simply says ‘manyana’ , there’s another day tomorrow. The passage we heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel is on Mike’s side in this, and gives us seven reasons not to worry.
We have to be careful with the interpretation of the passage – the advice is given in the light of the dawning of God’s Kingdom. Jesus didn’t mean us to be thoughtless or careless about our future, or the future of the created world, but He does want us to live in a trusting and loving relationship with God, and to avoid the anxiety and angst that would sap our energy and our enjoyment of life’s many blessings.
So, here are the seven reasons not to worry that Jesus gives us: –
In verse 25, Jesus tells us that God gives us life, and our lives are more than just eating, drinking and dressing up. Often our sights are set too low. We are not just material beings. We have the capacity to relate on a spiritual level too, and it’s the life of the spirit that will make us whole and fulfilled human beings.
Secondly, the birds of the air don’t pile up stores for unknown futures, so we need to take a lesson from them. We are more than the things we amass. We are not measured by what we’ve got, but by who we are. We are individual and unique children of God and He loves us.
Thirdly, we need to know that worry does not extend our lives by a single second – quite the reverse. So be rid of worry – exchange it for trust!
Fourthly, a far more fruitful alternative to worry is to look around at the bounty of God’s providence all around us. Lilies, for instance, are beautiful, even though they don’t work in order to afford cosmetic surgery. Their time is brief, but their beauty is worth noticing. Looking at nature in its beauty can make your day. The lily may be here today and gone tomorrow, but God still cares about it and gives it its beauty. How much more does He care about you?
So, centering our lives on things that perish makes us feel perishable ourselves. Increasing anxiety about the acquisition of material things in the consumer society we live in is often a sign of lack of a spiritual dimension to life, a relationship with God.
We need to seek God’s will for ourselves and for the world God created, and know that God loves us and is with us. It’s only when we are in harmony with God that we can be in true harmony with the people and the created world around us.
Lastly, we need to learn to live a day at a time, to live in the present moment. It’s all that we have, so we may as well enjoy it. So much worry is projected fear about things that never actually happen. Don’t spend too much time planning for tomorrow, but live today and appreciate its blessings. This is a very appropriate message for harvest time. Worry doesn’t make crops grow, and so much of what makes for a good harvest is completely beyond our control.
The Gospel writer provides no description of the audience to whom Jesus directed these teachings about anxiety, and history has proven them equally appropriate for the wealthy and the less well-off, because anxiety about money seems to afflict both those who have it and those who do not. The subject matter – obsessive and debilitating worry about material things – has afflicted many people across cultures and centuries, and continues so to do. Jesus, who knows only too well the things that trouble and obsess human beings, says that anxiety is totally futile. Excessive worry does not solve problems, reach goals or overcome difficulties. No one, by worrying, can increase their life span even by the smallest amount.
At first, we might think this message is practical psychology – don’t be anxious because anxiety will get you nowhere, but actually the message is theological – do you, in your heart of hearts, really trust God, or not? The answer to that question will form your innermost priorities. Jesus’ words are part of His teaching about God’s Kingdom. The call is for radical trust and single-minded service. Life is qualified by what we seek, what we put first. If we seek material things, then there is no release from anxiety in their attainment. We will simply want more. The promise is impoverished in its fulfilment. But if we seek God’s Kingdom, trust Him and put Him and His values first and foremost in our lives, then material things and the practical needs of everyday life, will take their proper place.
If we can learn to live like this, as Jesus told us we should, then our lives will be greatly enriched, and we will know that, whatever may happen, God holds us in the palm of His hand. Amen.