Friday, May 23, 2008

Matthew 6:24-34


A Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost


We’ve all known folks with a light touch on life – given to making major changes in the midst of life, not overly careful with their money, spontaneous and maybe a big glib. They can be grouped into two categories – those we felt were foolish and irresponsible and those we have admired and who completely amaze us.

In the first group are all the mad children we ever knew. The ones who went off to Europe with their boyfriends at a scandalously young age – the ones who used the entire inheritance their grandparents had left them to invest in something which was not a sure thing – most of the class clowns we went to school with who would open their mouths and say the most outrageous things and who didn’t seem to care who was listening or what their permanent records would look like at the end of their education.

Someone – we might have thought – should sit that person down and give them a few home truths – let them know the importance of building up credits for themselves – both personal and financial. A bad credit reference – well that can follow you for years – as can a bad reputation. Living for today will not see you through until tomorrow. There’s that little fable about the grasshopper and the ants - it might do them a world of good.

“Is not life more than food” says Jesus.

"Yes", we might reply, "but when you are hungry everything looks like food".

We will always be able to find counter-examples – sufficient in number to defy anybody who would take this passage from Matthew’s Gospel and these words of Jesus as promoting carelessness in personal life or denial about the reality of poverty or hunger.

We said at the outset that there were two groups of people with a light touch on life. The first group leave us thinking how thankful we are not to have ruined our lives through indiscipline, laziness, carelessness and irresponsibility. The other folks, however, are the graceful ones. They leave us wondering whether we’ve missed the point somewhere along the line. When we think of them we look in the mirror and feel suddenly very old and frightened.

They did something very well. They were bold – they took risks in order to do it and they seemed to do it without effort – gracefully. An opportunity arose and there was simply no question. It was the right time and they found themselves in the right place and they seized it. Surely they must have had occasion to wonder whether there was a safer option. Surely they sweated for a moment or two. They must have stopped at the top of the cliff before diving into the water and marvelled at the distance they would need to dive before they hit the water. They must have stopped to think that they were risking rather a lot and stepping out beyond the known into uncharted territory.

The first group would have done well to worry a little more. We are not unhappy in having been that little bit more careful and having established our trajectory and the credits we needed. But we – at least some of us anyway – have a deep rooted suspicion that there is no point at which we could stop being so careful. There’s no sign post on the road that says ‘you’ve been careful long enough”. “Stop now”. Now is the time to kick over the traces and gain for yourself a sense of adventure. “Take a few risks here before the next bend”. It’s not as if we’re alone. Everybody wants to play safe these days. I don’t need to tell you how full the newpapers are of good advice on safety and security. There are plenty of doomsayers: our lawyer or insurance agent would advise against anything untoward.. There is no governance board which will ever advise a chief executive to stop compressing and economising. That’s the problem. Playing safe becomes such a habit. It goes on for ever – and ever – unless a decision is made to stop.

When Jesus travelled through the communities of Galilee in the early part of the Gospel account he entered these communities as complete and pure opportunity. Opportunity. His words were words of invitation – words which attracted some and repelled others. One is taken and another is left. One rises from the boat and follows. Another gets back on his donkey and rides away because the risks are too great.

Opportunities. We’ve had ‘em. We think of the paths we have not taken – the forgiveness we have not granted because the risk of being hurt and compromised all over again was too great. The love we did not discover because the risks to our independence seemed too severe. The truth we did not speak because it might have alarmed the stockholders and driven down the share prices.

Reasons to worry don’t go away. Not when we’ve made a habit of hedging our bets. . If you’re looking for reasons to be prudent, or, as T.S. Eliot put it to ‘measure out your lives in coffee spoons’ those reasons can always be found.

It’s a wonderful word – worry. Our fears are given to us as part of our animal equipment – part of the natural man. They keep us at a distance from large predators, they equip us to differentiate between friend and foe. They spur us on to fill our larders before the first snow falls. We worry for a reason – there is much worth worrying about. Apart from its habitual use to describe the sort of anxious fretting we engage in at the prospect of some dimly perceived future it also describes what my Labrador retriever Clio does to one of her stuffed dog toys. She sits in the corner and chews it – she worries it until it is nothing but a pile of threads and polyester fluff.

We can worry ourselves like that. We can worry ourselves sick. We worry about real things and we worry about rubbish. We worry ourselves small, we worry ourselves into corners, we worry ourselves out of community – we sorry ourselves away from opportunities – away from love – away from value.

Membership in the Kingdom of God, which draws near every time Jesus draws near, requires the response of free men and women..



Did you appreciate this sermon? Did you nick bits of it for your own sermon on Sunday morning? Here's the collection plate. Fr Kenny's congregation in Dumbarton raises the lion's share of the budget of a primary school in Serrakunda, the Gambia.

A recording was made as part of New Every Morning - BBC Scotland's Sunday morning service and is used with their kind permission.

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1 comment:

Kenny said...

Thank you, Rabbit, from the children of The Gambia! Just hope we get some donations for an excellent sermon!