12th February 2023 10.30am – Second Sunday Before Lent Eucharist

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23 02 12 2nd Sunday before Lent Eucharist

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The Readings

Romans 8.18-25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Matthew 6.25-end

‘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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? 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. But 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? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Joe P

Today’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew makes me take a short intake of breath and whisper ‘If only….’  In the last few of years we’ve had a pandemic, noticeable, worldwide changes to the climate, tension between the super-powers going back to a level not seen since the height of the cold war, recession, fake news…and on a personal note I’ve started getting arthritis.
And here’s Jesus…
”Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life”
OK.  I’ll really try hard….
Of course, as with any of Jesus’s teachings, it isn’t quite as simple as “Don’t worry, be happy.”
The first word is ‘Therefore’ – so it behoves us to look back at what comes before.  And we have to go quite a way back to the start of Jesus’s speaking that includes today’s verses – all the way back to Matthew 5:1. For our reading is part of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ - that includes The Beatitudes - and is the first of the long sermons or discourses of Jesus that are given in Matthew.
Whether this sermon was preached all in one go, or whether Matthew assembled it from various sermons preached by Jesus is up for debate, but it is in the context of this sermon that our reading – with it’s underlying theme of ‘Don’t worry’ – needs to be taken.
The Sermon gives us a review of what it means to be a Christian.  There are a series of moral and ethical admonitions – such as Do not Murder, Do not commit adultery, Love your enemies, and instructions on fasting – which would be recognisable as part of the Mosaic Law and tradition by the listeners.  But Jesus questions the pure legalistic approach offered by the religious authorities of the day.  He says that righteousness through works and external obedience of the Law is not enough, but that what matters is a righteousness from within, which He brings.
The verses immediately before tonight’s reading tell us:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do NOT destroy, and thieves do NOT break in and steal.”
Jesus reminds people his listeners : “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
And we’re told rather bluntly “You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Which brings us to this morning’s reading.
When we recall what has gone before, I think it’s clear that Jesus is not really talking about food, our bodily appearance and what we wear.  These are Earthly things; they’re important for our survival, but they should not be the centre of our focus.
We’re reminded that food and water are important to the birds as well as to people, but they deal with them differently. They take what’s available from the bounty of God – they don’t stockpile stuff away in barns.
The lilies? They too are as beautiful as any person could be in their finest clothes – if not more so.  But their beauty, provided by God, is short lived and they will end up being used for oven fuel.
These are external things, core to the overall human condition. They’re not just things that the people of God experience – even the Gentiles (or, in some translations, pagans) – will spend their time asking “What shall we eat?  What shall we drink? What shall we wear?”.
This isn’t to say that they’re not important – in Verse 32 we’re reminded that “your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.” But we’re being encouraged to look at the difference between need and want.  We’re being reminded to look at what’s important to us – because those things that are important to us – our Earthly treasures, if you like – will determine where our focus is.
Some of these external things – food, drink, clothing – we need.  We need them in the same way that birds and plants do.  If we don’t have enough of them in our daily lives, we shall die.  And at that level we are just like the other members of God’s creation.  But once we start making them into fetishes or idols, when we start regarding them as having importance above and beyond the importance to us of food and clothing – then we are starting to lay up Earthly treasures which can rot, be lost, be stolen.
We then start focusing our time and efforts on stopping our Earthly reassures being taken from us. Before we know it, we’re not just spending time and energy on worrying about real issues that we can fix or resolve, but we start getting anxious about other, less relevant things.
From an understandable concern about food and water, clothing and shelter we can find ourselves buried in the more artificial anxieties and worries of our daily lives. Not so much ‘have I got clothes to wear’ but ‘I only want to wear designer brands.’
We can become attached to these worries; and if we are attached and anchored to our Earthly goods and concerns, it will be harder for us to achieve the kingdom of Heaven.
We’re not being told to ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ – we’re being told to hold our concerns appropriately. We’re being told to not allow ourselves to get so worried and anxious that we become paralysed by fear or descend in to being busy for the sake of it, or, worse still, get to be too scared to do the right thing – to focus on our Earthly desires rather than doing what’s right.  And yes, it’s hard; but by striving righteously for the Kingdom, all else will follow.  We can’t get the Kingdom of God by building and populating barns of Earthly wealth, but we can get what we need on Earth by focusing on righteousness.  As the Rolling Stones sang “You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you might just get what you need.”
The world is a scary place.  Jesus knows this; he warns us
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Each day has trouble enough for us to handle; there is no point in us making ourselves overly anxious by worrying about things that are not yet certain.
And the world is full of real threats right now – many of which are beyond our control.  We’ve all found ourselves in situations where the events in our lives are such that we are forced to fall back on the basics of getting through the next 24 hours.  Times when today’s trouble is indeed enough for today.
There’s an old joke that says ‘I can handle things day by day; but every so often several days gang up and come after me at once…’  When we find ourselves dealing with days like that, we need to remember that God is with us; we can pass our worries on to him to allow us to deal with today’s troubles as they come. Tomorrow will indeed have problems of it’s own – but we can’t worry them out of existence by trying to live tomorrow today.


The Prayers
Prepared by David C.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

We pray for the church. That it may act with humility and justice.
We hold before you O Lord, this past week's General Synod debate, and pray for greater realisation of your love and justice within the church.
Lord, in your mercy.
hear our prayer.

We pray for the world. That peoples and nations may work together for benefit of all and restore the beauty of creation.
We hold before you O Lord, all those effected by natural disasters, praying especially for the peoples of Turkey and Syria,
Lord, in your mercy.
hear our prayer.

We pray for our local community. That it may be a place of welcome and hospitality, and a vibrant place to live and work.
Lord, in your mercy.
hear our prayer.

We pray for those who suffer in body, mind or spirit. The lonely, the anxious and those in pain.
Grant them knowledge of your healing presence in their lives.
Lord, in your mercy.
hear our prayer.

We pray for those who have died. Remembering especially those who we have known and loved and those who have died in this last night with noone to pray for them.
Lord, in your mercy.
hear our prayer.

A prayer for Racial Justice Sunday:

Compassionate God,
who sent Jesus Christ
to deliver us from all manner of injustices and inequalities,
create in us new hearts and enlarged visions,
to see the image of God in every person
irrespective of background, race and ethnicity.
May we be generous in our love of others
as we work towards ending misunderstanding, racism and injustice;
creating communities of human flourishing,
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lord, in your mercy.
hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.