St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Trinity XV : Fr Tony Hogg

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 I have always had a difficulty with aspects of the idea Our Lord tells us about not worrying, and what that word conveys. I have had a picture of Our Lord not having to ‘worry’ about the mortgage, the bank rate, housekeeping bills, and the day’s menu, the laundry, etc. etc.; after all, none of these would impinge on a homeless, itinerant preacher. That I realise might seem to trivialize the matter and, as we will see, further consideration will indeed show that to be so.
So as far as the word 'worry', we need to know what Jesus is forbidding and what he is demanding. “Take no thought for the morrow”: “be therefore anxious for the morrow “or as Wycliffe translated it: “Be not busy for your life”. Others used what is called the Geneva translation: “Be not careful to your life.” Careful used in its literal sense – ‘full of care’ which is better because it is not ordinary, prudent foresight that Jesus forbids. He is not advocating a shiftless, reckless, thoughtless attitude to life: rather he is, however, forbidding a care-worn, worried fear, which takes all the joy out of life.
Jesus is repeating the familiar teaching of the Rabbis which is that we ought to meet life with a combination of thought and serenity e.g. “Teach your son a trade, for if you do not, you teach him to steal: in other words be prudent.” But at the same time they said: “He who has a loaf in his basket, and who says, “What will I eat tomorrow? Is a man with little faith.”
Now let us examine the different arguments and defences Jesus gives against worry.
He starts by reminding us that God gives us life, and it follows that giving us that greatest of all gifts we can trust him to clothe and feed it, and so trust him for that which supports life.
He then cites the birds and the point he is making is that the birds do not worry, although I have to say as I watch them flitting about and seemingly be ever on the move, and watching the other birds around them, it does seem to veer towards that. They certainly work: it has been said that no one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living! But Jesus points out that there is not to be found in them man’s straining to see a future which he cannot see.
Next, Jesus turns to our physical stature, by asking who would want to add a cubit (18 inches) to his height. But again the argument from Jesus is clear: it is useless to worry.
With our beautiful spring flowers around us, we are all too aware as to how short is their life as they wither. In Palestine, they would be cut down and then used as fuel for the fire, so that their purpose in creation is prolonged. Since we have in our faith the belief of ‘a Creator of heaven and earth, we must be aware that if God can invest such frail blooms with that great beauty and nurture them, how much more will he care for mankind, the crown of creation: a reminder that we are indeed made in his image.
Now Jesus is very blunt – worry is essentially distrust in God. That means that we who have learnt to call God ‘our Father’ with all that implies in our relationship, must also remember that it follows from that that he is too our God of love. Love is based on trust: not fear, nor fear of the relationship being broken if we are in the constant state of worry and anxiety.
Finally, and perhaps not always easy to adhere to, is that we should handle the demands of each day as it comes, without worrying about the unknown future and things which may never happen. John Keble hymn:
“The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we need to ask,
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.”
In all this Jesus tells us that worry is a needless, useless and even actively injurious, but that does not mean that we may from time to time be afflicted by it. It would be wrong too to forget that there are those for whom this inclination to worry and anxiety is a serious psychological problem and who need expert advice and often spiritual counseling.
The book of Lamentations, which was probably written by Jeremiah as his people were exiled and their land destroyed. He was about as sad and depressed a character as you get in the Bible and Lamentations reflects that.
But then he says at the end, in spite of it all: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: God’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.”
Therefore, my dears we can face the coming week in confidence, and our worries eased.
Trinity 15. September 9.2018


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