Joy, Trust, and Focus
(I got a lot of help with this sermon from Tom Wright’s little book Matthew for Everyone).
In our Gospel for today there’s one word that gets repeated over and over again: the word ‘Worry’. Not that worry is something that Jesus is recommending! Rather, it’s something that he’s warning us against. He says in verse 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear”. And again in verses 27-28: “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothes?” And again in verse 31, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’” And finally in verse 34, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today”.
Now if you’re like me, you find this a little hard to take. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia stories, was a devout Christian, but he admitted that his whole life long he struggled against a tendency to be a worrier. Commenting on this passage, he often wrote to his correspondents, “If God wanted us to live like the birds of the air, it would have be nice for him to have given us a constitution that was more like theirs!” I’m sure that you can sympathise with Lewis; I know I can. Like him, I tend to be a worrier. “Don’t worry – be happy” sounds great in theory, but how do you actually put it into practice? Many of us have become compulsive worriers, and the habits of a lifetime are hard to break. To us, Jesus’ saying in verse 25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life” – sounds like a pipe dream.
I think we need to begin by recognising that, in this as in every other instance, Jesus practised what he preached. He does not seem to have been a person who worried a great deal; he lived his life on the principle of trusting his heavenly Father, and he tried to teach his followers to do the same. And I would go so far as to say that this made him, so far as we can tell, basically a happy person.
Yes, I know, there’s an old prophecy that said the Messiah was going to be ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’. We know that when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and when he went to his death on the cross, the whole weight of the suffering of the world seemed to descend on him, so that his spirit was as dark as the sky around him. And we know that he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and that he was sad when people refused to trust God and see the wonderful things God was doing.
But these moments are exceptions. As we read a passage like today’s gospel, we should see that it flows straight out of Jesus’ own experience of life. And I would like to suggest to you this morning that there are three basic attitudes that are at the heart of Jesus’ experience of life, three attitudes that are reflected in this passage: joy, trust, and focus.
Read the rest here.
It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual life, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer. But we must not use the Bible (our ancestors too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and read without attention to the whole nature and purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons.
- The distinction which St. Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 7 between ‘yet not I but the Lord’ (v.10), and ‘I say, not the Lord’ (v.12).
- The apparent inconsistencies between the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 2: between the accounts of the death of Judas in Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18-19.
- St. Luke’s own account of how he obtained his matter (Luke 1:1-4).
- The universally admitted unhistoricity (I do not say, of course, falsity) of at least some narratives in Scripture (the parables) which may well also extend to Jonah and Job.
- If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired.
- John 11:49-52. Inspiration may operate in a wicked man without his knowing it, and he can then utter the untruth he intends (propriety of making an innocent man a political scapegoat) as well as the truth he does not intend (the divine sacrifice).
I was going to speak to you this morning about the work of Philip the evangelist, as the last sermon in our series of ‘More Bible People You May Not Remember’, but then I read today’s gospel and realised that we couldn’t really read it unless I also preached on it. This is because, for some of us in church today, the words of Jesus here will come across as words of condemnation and not words of hope. And while it isn’t part of my job as a preacher to protect you from the words of Jesus, it is part of my job to make sure we’ve heard those words accurately.
So let’s start by acknowledging that, for many of us, Jesus’ words that we heard a moment ago were very painful. For some of us who are living with the pain of very difficult marriages, his words seemed to close a potential escape hatch for us. For some of us who have been divorced and are now remarried, his words seem to condemn us to living in sin for the rest of our lives. Some of us have a different kind of pain; we have been the victims of frivolous divorce. We didn’t abuse our spouses or cheat on them; they simply found someone younger and prettier than us, and so we were traded in for a newer model. And some of us are the children of divorce, grappling with the fact that statistically we are far more likely to go through divorce ourselves than are the children of lasting marriages.
Jesus wants to spare us pain by teaching us how to live in accordance with God’s original intention for us. We need to try to find a way to hear this text today as a word of life and grace, not condemnation. So let’s turn in our Bibles to Mark 10:1-12 and take a closer look at it.
Read the rest here.
What: Songs for Small and Tall- all ages music & singalong
Where: St. Margaret’s Anglican Church: 12603 Ellerslie Road
When: Friday, October 2nd at 7.30 pm.
Bryan Moyer Suderman is a musician in the Mennonite tradition; his music company is called ‘Small Tall Music’, because, as he says, he writes ‘worship songs for small and tall’ – for children and for adults (see his website here). Bryan has produced several CDs, including songs for Vacation Bible School and Christian Education programs, worship songs, songs about stewardship, and a new CD based largely on texts from the prophets you can find our more about his CDs and here some samples here). This concert is jointly sponsored between St. Margaret’s Anglican Church and Edmonton First Mennonite Church, and it will be an all-age event. Admission will be by donation at the door, with a suggested donation of $10 per person or $25 per family.