Sermon given at Gordon Chapel Evensong 2 Oct 16
SERMON – DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW (Micah 6.6-8) (Luke 12.22-34)
Francis of Assisi was born into a prosperous life but later, had a conversion and chose to follow Christ more closely, live in poverty and care for the poor, the environment and nature. So the readings and sermon, reflect the life that Francis chose.
We don’t come to church to get bad news, it’s everywhere. We come to hear the truth and receive guidance – and sometimes that may be uncomfortable, the message tonight may fall into that category, especially if we, like Francis, try to follow Christ and obey his commands.
Jesus talked a great deal about money – 16 of the 38 parables were concerned with money and possessions. No wonder we need to hear him – look at the greed we see today, especially from those who make a lot of money anyway – the sportsmen taking drugs, football managers taking bribes, MPs cheating on their expenses. Fraud and corruption everywhere.
There’s a lot of mammon involved isn’t there. So what is mammon? Mammon in the NT is thought to mean money or material wealth, and is associated with the greedy pursuit of gain. Jesus also used it as a reference to Caesar, because he claimed on his tax coins that he was a god.
So Jesus stood on a mountain and said “You cannot serve two masters – you cannot serve God and Mammon.” Oh how we try! We can confess on Sunday that God is our guide, and by Monday, live as if this world is more important – choosing to follow its values and priorities.
We may say that money isn’t our god, but gather more and more of it. We may say that our families are important to us, but neglect them.
We may turn our anxieties over to God – but then hold on to them, because we need to solve all those things that bother and worry us. So there’s tension in our lives when we try to serve two masters, and it can make us ill and difficult to live with.
But we cannot have a list of number 1 priorities, e.g. saying that our purpose in life is to: Follow God, Become Wealthy, Be a perfect parent, End World Hunger and be elected Bishop or Prime Minister. We complicate our lives by trying to have it all – money and possessions, power and privilege.
To paraphrase Jesus, he said, “Look at the birds; they don’t have investment portfolios. Look at the flowers; they don’t lie awake at night fretting over the latest kitchen or new car. God takes care of them. You can’t add one hour to your life – and since God cares about you, why do you make it so difficult?”
As a nation and as individuals, we have been on a spending binge for years and are now paying the price. It’s what’s been called affluenza, a disease of over-indulgence. We worship Mammon, perhaps unknowingly, and it hasn’t made us happy – so is there a remedy?
Thankfully, Jesus gives us guidance and assurance about the future. He says that we must not be anxious about what we will eat, drink or wear – he promises that God will provide – that it’s God’s will to give us good things.
So, when we pray, “Give us today our daily bread” we’re to pray – not for all that we want – but simply for what we need. Of course “daily bread” can be translated as “bread for tomorrow” and we cannot help thinking ahead – but Jesus is telling us very clearly not to worry about the future. It’s enough to pray for today’s bread, to have clothes to wear today and to have sufficient resources for today. Basically – stop striving and wishing for even more!
That wont make you happy, and focusing on what you lack, will just make you dissatisfied with what you have. Seeing what others have creates envy, and from that develops a cycle of stress and worry and even panic as we try to keep up.
People in Jesus’ time had fewer resources than most of us. Their worry about food and drink and clothing was often whether they would have any at all. But no doubt they too worried about possessions and the future, and so Jesus confronts it head on in the Sermon on the Mount – speaking to them and to us.
Today, trends are set by foodies, fashionistas, advertisements and the media – so we have consumer stress – worrying about what we want, how good it makes us look, and whether we can pay for it now or later – that cycle of indulgence, worry and stress eats away at us. Sadly it now affects our young people, even children, so that even they may need psychiatric treatment.
Jesus invites us to give it up. But notice what he is not saying.
He’s not saying that food and drink and clothing are unimportant. He’s not saying that making provision for necessities is wrong. He’s not saying that we must avoid the enjoyment of such things.
What he is saying is that we must not get wrapped up in achievement or possessions or pleasure so that they take over our lives. There is a remedy. When we seek God’s will and serve Him we are released from the dizzy cycle of indulgence and stress.
But we must be wary and self aware – for that cycle is set so deep in who and what we are, that we may treat its antidote, its cure, as yet another worry – are we are getting it right – are we really following Gods commands and, are we obeying him correctly?
Don’t worry when that happens, remember – God is active in seeking us – he wants us in his fold – his Grace is sufficient for us. The Lord says, “I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” he knows our names. He counts the hair on our head. We may forget him – he never forgets us.
So the alternative to the stress & indulgence cycle remains what it has always been: recognizing that our true center is the Holy One, not our small self – our demanding ego. We must seek God and knock on the door to his kingdom – and the hand that opens it from within, already has our name written on its palm – like an invitation card to new life.
Jesus is trying to guide us away from worry and stress. When He spoke to people on that mountain about their worry for the future, he spoke to us too – in our secular life and our church life – for we look at the future with worry and anxiety. But we must do our best to trust in God, not letting worry grind us down.
We are called to be faithful. A church and community worshipping God, and not Mammon. If there is to be success it must be in the eyes of God who will look and say :-
I am well pleased with Holy Trinity Elgin, Christ Church Huntly, Holy Trinity Keith, St Mary’s Fochabers, Bellie Kirk Fochabers ….. and I trust, Gordon Chapel – churches that those here faithfully attend. May he say to us “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
So Jesus is saying, don’t worry about tomorrow, stop over-thinking it. Today’s troubles are enough. Stop worrying and start praying. Stop worrying and start trusting. Be an optimist for God and let your faith encourage others. He’s saying, “I’ve got another way: Seek first to love and serve God, and all that you need will come to you as well.” Everything?
Well, not everything – not all our wants, wishes and dreams – but what we need. That’s the promise Jesus makes – put God first and the rest will fall into place! To do this we may need to make changes in our life.
I said earlier that sometimes we hear difficult truths in church and ask ourselves ‘what must I do now’. Or we may even be a bit blasé about them thinking ‘so what’s new – I’ve heard it all before’? Well, OK – but have you acted upon it – have you got time?
For Jesus said we cannot add a single hour to our life – so perhaps we need to ensure that the life we have is used to best effect, as we prepare for eternal life – which is what we are about. Either way it may be time to look at ourselves.
So perhaps here or at home you could try what may be an uncomfortable exercise:-
Think about how many years you may have left in this life and deduct from that your age – don’t worry – it’s only imagination – it may help you focus. The time left is that in which to truly serve God and make a difference – we don’t know when the end time will come for us. For example I am 72 and if I live to be 75 then I only have 3 years to become the kind of person that God wants me to be. Is that enough?
Next, imagine your family and friends talking about you after you’r gone. What three things do you want them to say about you?
No one will want to see comments like:- He was wealthy but very mean – She spent all her time working in the office and her family came second – He’d the biggest business in town but did nothing for his workers or community – She was very religious – but not much of a Christian!
So now you have your list, and a notional time frame in which to change your ways – to live your life in such a way that people will be certain to say the things you want to hear – our Lord may like them too!
And now – the future – your future – it is up to each one of us to change – not to worry about it but to live as Christ asks of us. It may be hard at times – but we’re not alone – we have the example of those who’ve gone before – the Holy Spirit is with us – and as churches in community – we can face it together.
May God give us honesty, clarity of mind and purity of heart, as we seek Him, and may our list, be the key that will open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven for us. Amen