Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sermon for Open at Coventry Cathedral, 2nd Sunday before Lent, Yr A: Romans 8:16-25 & Matthew 6:25-34

With thanks to my good friend Claire Maxim, whose own sermon I extensively plundered for this, when the excitement of imminent grandparent-hood became altogether too much for me!

Over the past few days, as we waited for the arrival of a 1st grandchild our family has been doing a lot of hoping for what is not seen , - which Paul assures me is a GOOD thing...and (less good) a lot more worrying about tomorrow, and what it might bring...especially as we counted the long hours of a labour that seemed to stretch all the way from Wednesday night to Saturday morning. Do not worry about your life?


I might just manage it for myself, but for my precious daughter in law? NO WAY!!

It’s fair to say that by the time I went to bed on Friday I had recast the entire family in one of those Victorian tear-jerkers where a beautiful young mother dies in child-birth, leaving a whole string of tragic orphans. Since this was Giles and Lizzie’s first baby, even a worst-case scenario would have been unlikely to lead to such a very bleak familial landscape...but since when has reality ever impacted on the possibility of a Really Good Worry.

And of course I WILL worry, even now their daughter is safely landed on the shores of time,about what sort of a world my lovely Eleanor Grace has been born into. A world where the extreme right seems to be enjoying an ascendency in previously liberal countries, where Trump is behaving like a greedy toddler high on e-numbers, where our own government seems to find it completely acceptable to leave hundreds of refugee children in a hostile environment, despite earlier promises of help and sanctuary.

It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of listening to the news to make you feel that worry is after all the most reasonable response to the current situation. Unfortunately,Jesus sees things differently (as he so often does) Our Gospel passage says pretty clearly

Don’t worry: you won’t achieve anything that way, not a second more of life, not an inch more of height…  

If only it were that easy.

Of course, there’s a risk of inhumanity inherent in not worrying – the same risk that the Romans passage presents:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed”                               says Paul...and on a bad day, this might just be interpreted as
“Put up with anything in the here and now because up ahead it’s all going to be wonderful! In such an interpretation, this teaching becomes a licence to ignore those who have less than we do, to ignore people who are hungry, to ignore those who cannot afford to clothe themselves and their families.

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink...”
A careless reading might encourage you to decide to simply leave everything up to absolve you from all responsibility
“your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things”...

But the crux of the matter lies in the next sentence:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So yes, God knows we need food and drink and shelter.               God understands that.

And we are told that if we seek God’s kingdom, and God’s righteousness, we will get the basics as well. 

As well, not instead of. 

What does that mean for us, in this time and this place?              What might a world where everyone is seeking God’s Kingdom look like?                                                                                                What does God’s righteousness really involve?

The quick answer is that such a world is obviously not at all like the United Kingdom in February 2017.   Yes, there are plenty of good people about here and now, plenty who seek God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, but still and all, things go wrong for them. “All these things” don’t seem to be given to them in the way we might hope.

But I wonder why that might be?                                                  Could it be something to do with us?

In the world that Jesus describes, there is that core assumption that there is enough for everyone, that ample provision is made for all our basic needs, if only we weren’t seduced by greed, encouraged to demand more and better with every passing day. 

But still and all, there IS enough and to spare...if we can only let go of our relentless determination to accumulate more…

But we find that so very very hard.

We can’t quite take it on trust that there IS enough for all, that everyone can and will be  provided for.
And so we buy into the anxious spirit of the age. We are encouraged to worry about tomorrow, and next week, and next year. 
Who will look after us in our old age?
Will our pension be sufficient to live on?
Will our health break down, and if it does, do we have enough money to pay for our care?                                                                           Will we have to carry on working until we drop?                                 Can the over-stretched NHS give the care it should to everyone?
Worry upon worry upon worry….and they all seem utterly reasaonable to me – particularly at 3.00 am! And I'm one of the fortunate "haves"!

Try preaching “don’t worry about tomorrow” to someone who can’t cope with today.  As Christians, we claim that through God’s good grace we have the gift of eternal life, of bright hope for tomorrow.  But how to claim that for a mother whose children are hungry, a father whose son is disillusioned because he cannot find a job, a teenager trapped in the Jungle with his hope of a better future just a few miles away?

If we are truly seeking God’s Kingdom, truly seeking God’s righteousness, we will care about the poor, the vulnerable, the voiceless.  We will care about those for whom this is an unjust society, we will speak out for those who are at the margins.  We will care that the whole creation groans in labour pains...and not only the creation but we ourselves.

We know things are broken but we know too that we have a Saviour who came to heal...who spent his time with those on the edge, with those who have no hope

And we have a Spirit who is alive in us today, who calls us to seek God’s Kingdom, to collaborate with God in making it real here and now.

So don’t worry….but don’t bury your head in the sand either.

There’s work to be done, for you and for me.

This isn’t some academic call to an unseen Utopia, though we look for it with hope. 
It’s a call to the deepest reality, to change right here and  right now.

There is enough, if we share; there is justice for all, if we care.
And if we act,God’s Kingdom is here.  Amen. Let it be so.

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