Sermon from Sunday 12 February

Do not worry - it's a matter of perspective


Reading(s): Genesis 1:1-2:3, Romans 8:18-25 and Matthew 6:25-end. This sermon was given by Vanessa Lawrence at All Saints and St Mark.

When my boys were small, one of our favourite authors was Julia Donaldson – you will know, I’m sure ‘Room On The Broom’ or ‘Zog’ - made into animations at Christmas.

One of her lesser known books is called ‘A Squash And A Squeeze’. An old lady’s house is too small, and she goes to see a wise old man to complain. He suggests she takes in her hen. She finds this an odd idea, but she does it. It doesn’t really help her feel her house is any bigger, and the hen lays an egg on the rug. She goes back again, and he suggests she takes in her goat, who promptly starts chewing the table leg. The wise man suggests she takes in her pig, who eats the food in the larder. This goes on, as her house gets fuller and fuller and more and more chaotic, and eventually she says to the wise man this isn’t helping at all. He says, well, let them all out then. Ahhh, she says, my house feels ginormous, it’s no longer a squash and a squeeze!

Perspective is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?! Anxiety and worry are natural human emotions but often our culture today exacerbates worry in unnecessary directions. We get caught up with the things of this world, and forget to focus on what is really important. We forget to be grateful. From our Gospel reading we can see that misplaced anxiety was not a new phenomenon, but one that Jesus warned against too. Jesus wants us to live life differently, not to make decisions based on fear.

He wants our lives to be based on those eternal truths of God, not the hollow promises that the world has to offer. Jesus is talking here of the kind of anxiety that directs us away from God, robbing us of peace and joy, and leading us to behave in ways that might disadvantage others. In our western wealthy society, those fears about our own financial security, our need for status, our need for a position in society lead us to take decisions that have global economic implications.

The news this week of the tragic events in Syria and Turkey may make many of us rethink our own worries and have a new and more grateful perspective on life. We might also take a moment to reflect on the fact that it wasn’t the earthquake itself that caused the majority of the deaths, but the poverty of the buildings and infrastructure – the collapse of buildings in an area where people are too poor to build earthquake proof structures. Our western consumerist culture, our constant demand for ever cheaper goods, the human greed for land and territory and desire for war …. Humanity’s propensity to be inhumane to the rest of humanity is stark.

Our Romans reading reminds us that suffering is part of the Christian life. Early Judaism developed the idea that the suffering of the faithful would summon God’s final deliverance. These were the “labour pangs” that would give birth to the age to come.

For Christians, Jesus' suffering on the cross was exactly those pangs: not pains leading to death, but those signaling new birth and new beginning. Caught between the old age and the age to come, we join Jesus in that suffering, participating in the advent of the new.

The life of faith is nothing less than entrusting ourselves to this story - not only trusting the idea that Jesus died for us and was raised, but also trusting that if we enter into his death we, too, will be given newness of life.

We of course learned from scripture, long ago, that our destiny is intrinsically tied to that of the created order (and vice versa).

Reading Genesis we learn not only that we have a role to play on earth, mediating God’s rule to the world, but also that our failures have all-embracing implications: human relationships are marred, our relationship with the divine is disconnected, and even the dirt of the ground responds to our grasping after what is not rightfully ours.

In Romans 8 we see that God has not decoupled us from the earth. God continues to allow humanity to stand at the centre of the destiny of creation.

In our Romans reading, this is the story Paul tells: creation has a future, and that future is tied to the resurrection life that God is bringing to God’s beloved children.

God’s project, made known in the work of Jesus, runs through us, and does not stop until the entire created order is renewed. And so we see that life with God is not about escaping from our bodies or escaping from earth, or escaping from our responsibilities as part of the created order, but becoming more truly embodied people upon a flourishing eternal earth.

We too can become agents of resurrection if we turn away from our fears and base our lives on those eternal truths of God – those truths of God that affect our actions and our decision making on a daily basis leading to a world where earthquakes no longer kill hundreds of thousands of people, because we have created a world based on justice, and compassion, on love and equality.