Do not worry about tomorrow - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons

Do not worry about tomorrow

Matthew 6: 24-34

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24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

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Rosemary and I returned last week from a wonderful holiday in Southern India. Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with holiday reminicences, but of all the Kaleidoscope of experiences and impressions we have come back with, thinking about today's Gospel, one sticks in my mind: and that is the differet understanding of time that Indians have compared to Western culture.

As we travelled around we saw people beside the road, outside their houses, at shops and cafes and shrines, just sitting, contemplating, talking, idling, not apparently in any hurry, not rushing off to the next appointment: simply content to stand and watch the world go by, or talk to their neighbour, or say their prayers in the local Temple. And travelling by train as we were, we soon learnt that time meant something rather different for those using Indian railways than in Europe. If the train manager or tour guide said, we'll be at our destination in 20 minutes, you knew that it would probably be an hour. And when you had to allow trains in the other direction to come down the single track between stations,  that might extend to two hours.
Indians particularly in the south seem relaxed about time, and relaxed about life: happy to go with the flow and to let things happen when they happen.

We live in a much more anxious culture, dominated by schedules, by goals, by diaries and emails and deadlines; we worry about all sorts of things, some legitimate causes of worry, some not. Now there is nothing more annoying than being told not to worry when you are worried, especially if you have good reason to be worried. A topical example would be if you are a family living on benefits or on a minimum income and that gets cut and you simply don't have enough money to last the month and pay the food bills, it's not helpful to be told by the Church 'don't worry about tomorrow.'  What is helpful is for the Church to give you temporary support through food banks or  grant aid or practical advise and support. Sometimes, 'don't worry' simply isn't good enough.

But it is also true that worry and panic very seldom helps in any given situation. Jesus, in today's Gospel reading tells his disciples not to worry - about clothes or food and drink, or what the  next day would bring.

Often we worry about the silliest things, and yet I know that people are often burdened with very real worries. Worries about family or health or finances or school or work or faith or something that happened long ago, the memory of which continues to haunt and to trouble. All kinds of worries.

And worry can be insidious, it can hang over you like a black cloud, dominating your life and sapping your energy. To people who worry Jesus says - Do not worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Was he being naïve and unrealistic?
This advice comes in the section of the Gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus explores what it means to be part of the household of God and his description of the rules for living in God's Kingdom turn upside down many of the values not just of his own day but of ours too.

You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I tell you to turn the other cheek and walk the second mile. You have heard is said, love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but I tell you to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and ignore the plank in  your own. Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth where moth and rust destroy. But store up treasure for yourself in heaven.

What Jesus' teaching is trying to do is to broaden our horizons - to push us beyond our own concerns, beyond self-interest, beyond our natural instincts, towards the values of God's Kingdom.

And on a deeper level, Jesus wants us to know that God can be trusted, even when things are happening to us that seem to undermine that trust. 'The Lord is my Shepherd', even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. 'God is our refuge and our strength,' a very present help in time of trouble. And there are many other similar sentiments in the pages of the Bible.

These phrases and images continue to be a source of enormous comfort and inspiration. In a world which looks far from being at ease with itself, the Bible tells us that God's love does permeate the history of the world, that we are called to hold to values and ideals which are not always the same as the world's, and that we are to trust in the trustworthiness of God.

It is in that wider context that Jesus tells his followers not to be consumed by worry. And He spoke from experience, he knew how difficult life could be, how unfair a hand we can sometimes be dealt. But through it all, he says, the purposes of God's love will prevail.

In South India, we visited many ancient shrines and temples, mostly still in use today and by a faith - Hinduism - very different to Christianity. But what moved me as we visited these places was to see the quiet devotion of those bringing their offerings to the Hindu gods with real sincerity and trust and to see that spirituality is something very natural and very normal in that society, a real sense that the divine power is in charge and that things will work out.

We don't need to pretend to God that we have no anxieties - indeed we are encouraged to bring them to God in prayer. But what we are trying to learn and take deep into our lives is that God reigns, God cares, and that God can be trusted: Therefore, take no thought for the morrow, for tomorrow can take care of itself. Amen.

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