Musical prelude and Sermon
Sermon – October 10, 2021
Joel 2:21-27 and Matthew 6:25-33
I want to start by expressing some of my concerns around the scripture from Matthew today.
It’s not that I don’t like the scripture. I find it quite beautiful in how it challenges us to consider where we place our faith. But… But.
We need to be honest and recognize that there are those in the world. Those in our community who do need to spend some time thinking about where their next meal is coming from. There are those in our community who do need to focus on where they will find shelter and proper clothing. Never mind a whole lot of other necessities of life.
I do not for a minute believe Jesus is dismissing their concerns and their anxieties.
I do think we need to be very careful that we do not end up using this scripture as a way of absolving our responsibilities as neighbours and siblings in Christ to reach out to those who are impoverished.
But, I know my immediate needs are looked after. I know where my next meal is coming from. I had decisions to make this morning looking in my closet. I wasn’t looking to compete with Solomon’s finery but I clothing was not a concern.
I think Jesus is telling us to not get so caught up in accumulating wealth to protect against what might come that we lose sight of the here and now.
And that includes the needs of our neighbours.
Jesus calls on us to see our lives; our world; our neighbours and our families as a gift. All of these are part of God’s blessing. If we are truly grateful for what God has provided, what is the appropriate response?
To hold the things we have closer to us? To hoard what we have, just in case things take a turn for the worse? Or to share with the world around us and to recognize that we are blessed to be a blessing to others?
If we follow Jesus, if we live a life of right relationship with God, we recognize that we are part of a web of love and caring that includes our neighbours. We support the people around us and care for them.
If we live that way then no one should need to wake up wondering where their next meal is coming from or if they will be protected from the cold and the rain.
There are times when it can be difficult to express gratitude. There are times when it seems the entire world is lined up against you. That everything is falling apart. How can you possibly say thank you in the midst of such disaster. How can you say thank you when you are in pain and alone?
And yet, scripture keeps telling us to thank God.
It is remarkable that in recent years, studies have been published indicating that gratitude is actually a healthy practice. It improves mental and even physical health. Taking time to name those things that you are grateful for is good for you.
But, that doesn’t mean it is easy to do. We live in a culture that often encourages us to focus on what we do not have, or those things that make life difficult. What do we need to fix; whether it is some personal problem or something outside that is troubling us. What can we do to bring us a little closer to the ideal life?
Let me be clear about this. I am not saying we should stop work on self improvement or working for a more just and caring world. But if all we do is focus on those things that are “wrong”, then that may be all that we ever see.
Taking time to be grateful is a practice and it can be a spiritual practise. In her book Grateful, Diana Butler Bass argues for cultivating an awareness to see the gifts provided to us more often. Thankfulness becomes more habitual. It becomes a practise. Something we do regularly so that it becomes a part of who we are.
I find myself being grateful for the community of which I am a part. It is a community that supports me and cares for me; but also challenges me. It challenges me to consider how we interact with the rest of the world. How are we blessed by this community of which we are a part and how do we contribute to that community in turn?
As I mentioned in the announcements, we will take time next weekend to say goodbye to the shoes and toys and shirts that make up the memorial to the children taken from their families and placed in so-called residential schools.
I am still reflecting on what I will say at that time.
But I think I will take time to say thank you. Thank you to the memorial for encouraging us to think about the ways we can close our eyes to the mistakes we have made and to the evil that is often active in our midst. Thank you for reminding us that it is critical that we listen to the people around us and stay vigilant to injustice that can be happening all around us while we work to preserve our comfortable lives. Thank you for reminding us that such injustice cannot remain hidden forever and we will eventually be forced to confront it.
God created us to be in community. We are created in such a way that we are connected one to another. The term that I learned for how we are connected is a web of mutuality. We cannot completely separate ourselves from our neighbours. What we do affects them and what they do and experience affects us.
This is not a bad thing.
We are part of a community. We are cared for, we are loved. God loves us and supports us and challenges us to be who we are meant to be. That care, that love is so often expressed through the people in our community.
So in conclusion, may we be part of sharing that same love and care for those around us; that no one will need to worry about food and shelter and care.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789