Don’t Worry – Consider the Lilies

This sermon was preached by Rev Deborah on Sunday 9 February 2017. Broadband issues prevented it’s publication here prior to today.

Genesis 1:1 – 2.3

Romans 8:18–25

Matthew 6:25–34

Don’t worry about a thing – cos every little thing’s gonna be alright.

You probably recognise this from Bob Marley – but these very words could have been taken directly from today’s gospel reading taken from the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Don’t worry about your life
  • Don’t worry about what you will drink and eat
  • Don’t worry about your body
  • Don’t worry about what you will wear

Jesus was talking to first century Galileans – but what would this look like today?

Deb: I’m sorry I’ve not spoken to you for a while, Lord. I have been so busy. I’ve got so much on my mind. There’s so much going on. The E-mails never stop. The phone’s always ringing. Then there’s all the housework. The children have got problems. Miles is in Y6 and is worried about his SATs, Nicola says she is being bullied and there are nasty messages on Twitter. My husband’s job is in jeopardy. We are struggling to make-ends meet. We’ve nothing in the fridge. And tonight, for the first time in ages, I’ve been invited to party and I have got nothing to wear.

Jesus: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”

Deb: Seriously? Isn’t your advice a little naïve? I do need to plan ahead and know where my next meal is coming from. I do need to make sure my family is clothed.

Jesus: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Deb: Yes, when you put it that way, but . . .

Jesus: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (6:26)

Deb: Yes, but . . .

Jesus: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (6:27)

Deb: No, I guess not, but . . .

Jesus: And why do you worry about clothing?

Deb: Well, because I need to be appropriately dressed for various occasions and at least try to be somewhat up to date. Especially at the party tonight.

Jesus: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (6:29).

Deb: Why do you keep making these nature analogies? I mean I do appreciate nature and all that but you are talking about flowers and birds. I’m a person!

Jesus: “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith?” (6:30)

Deb: It would be nice to think so, but don’t you think worry serves a useful function sometimes? Gets the adrenaline going. Gives that push that you sometimes need?

Jesus: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?'” (6:31)

Deb: All right. I get that you’re not going to budge on the worry issue. But tell me this: what am I to do with all that mental free time I used to spend worrying?

Jesus: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (6:33).

As you can see from the sketch the problem of worry is not reserved for the first-century hearers of Matthew’s Gospel. In fact, if you look around our world today from the very personal to the very global, you could say that worries and anxieties are the characteristics of a modern-day western malaise. We seem to be burdened more than ever before by pressures, worries, fears and phobias with countless people being close to buckling under the strain of it. These include specific worries such as broken relationships, bereavement, health worries or financial security and others less easy to pin down, ranging from a sense of insecurity, the weight of life’s daily demands and responsibilities to depression. And that is before we look at the wider picture of our world with its tensions, wars and injustices brought to us as never before through the media.

We are not just talking about adults. 1 in 10 children has mental health issues. Only last week I heard about a child (not in our congregation) in Y6 from a happy well-adjusted family who was stressed not just because of SATs but also because he was struggling with everything, including having something on every evening except Saturday. Happiness seems to be the elusive element that seems to be missing.

All this seems to contrast starkly with our gospel reading, where we are told not to worry. Easier said than done you might think and yet the answer is plainly before us in the last verse.

‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ In a nutshell – seek God first.

The whole of reading builds up to this. Jesus uses illustrations that we, and certainly, the early Galileans, were familiar with.

  • The birds wheeling around, high on the currents of air in the Galilean hills, simply enjoying being free and alive. They never seem to do the work that humans do and yet they mostly stay alive and well.
  • Flowers, growing in the fertile Galilean soil, in their fragile beauty and yet transient. Their beauty does not come from hours in front of the mirror putting make-up on, or from shopping for fine clothes. It is God given, beautiful, given through God’s generosity.
  • If God provides for the birds and flowers, how much more so will he provide for us?

We are reminded about this in our first reading, an account of the creation, illustrating the power, glory and majesty of God and yet it also speaks of his care and love. Jesus tells us to put God first, the creator himself, who has filled the world with wonderful and mysterious things, full of energy, beauty and excitement and he wants us to trust him  and love him. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

What Jesus is not saying however, is not that we eat or drink as little as possible and to wear the most disreputable clothes that we have, just to show that we despise these things. Jesus liked a party as much as anyone and when he died, the soldiers so admired his tunic that they cast lots for it rather than tearing it up.

Essentially he is saying, ‘put the world first and it gets moth eaten in your hands. Put God first, and you’ll get the world thrown in.’

Jesus also doesn’t mean that we do nothing, that we should not plant seeds and reap harvests, or that we should not work at weaving or spinning or whatever our daily tasks involve, but that what we do is in the strength of God, with joy, trusting him and casting our worries and burdens on him, knowing that he is always there.

I would like to finish with a short poem by Nick Fawcett. When we are feeling burdened down with worries and anxieties it is a good poem to use as a prayer. There are a few copies of the poem at the back of church if you want to take one home. Alternatively, it will be on the website with the sermon.

Like a dove, come to me, fill me with peace.

Lord, I leave all in your care.

Time now for worry and striving to cease;

Always, my God you are there.

When strength is fading, you heal and renew,

When all seems helpless, your hand sees me through,

Though all else may fail me, your love will stay true,

Always, my God you are there.

Bind up my wounds and in love make me whole,

Lord, I leave all in your care.

Quieten my heart and bring rest to my soul;

Always, my God, you are there.

When I am broken, you help me rebuild,

With you beside me the turmoil is stilled,

The darkest of moments with light will be filled;

Always, my God you are there.

(Nick Fawcett, 2007)

Amen.

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