Most of us worry about money don’t we? So when Jesus tells us not to worry, we probably worry more. (Matt 6:24-34) Does he really mean us to stop worrying? And how on earth do we do that? Once again we must not take Jesus absolutely literally. What he wants us to do is to look at ourselves and the world in a different way. So he says “Look at the birds in the sky….. Think of the flowers… in the fields”. And he wants us to look at them, not just because they are beautiful, but because they remind us how much of our life is just like theirs – that we too are part of the natural world in which all our worrying and thinking makes little difference. Death will come to all of us eventually – hopefully not for a long time yet – but come it will – and then all that will matter will be in the hands of God.
Paul talks of this too, doesn’t he? (1 Cor 4:1-5) He warns us about judging other people, or even ourselves, which is surely just another form of worrying. “Am I good enough, clever enough, beautiful enough? And look at him, or her…. Too clever by half!” No, Paul reminds us that God looks at the heart, at our “secret intentions”, not at what we, or they, are like on the surface. I always remind myself of that when I see someone, or meet someone, who is really good-looking – male or female. I actually say to myself, “But what are they like on the inside? What has looking good done for them?” And I remember many I have met and ministered too, who were like that on the outside, but desperately sad or confused in their heart.
But there’s a deeper kind of worrying isn’t there? It’s the worrying about life in general. The News doesn’t help us here does it? Always showing us war or disaster, and rarely all the love and care that is going on quietly and unnoticed. Again, Jesus wants us to resist this endless negativity, where our minds just go round and round going nowhere. Again, Paul reminds us that God looks deeper and he sees all the goodness in men and women that the Media people so often miss. Yes, when God looks at the secret intentions of our heart, he just not just see the bad things. He also sees our hopes and our dreams ; he sees all our good intentions, and understands our frustrations when somehow the good things, the good work, that we want to do, doesn’t turn out quite the way we hoped. There, when we feel like failures, it is only God (and our best friends) who understand and stand by us.
When people come to me, as they often do, full of sadness or anger at all this, they often also feel angry with God. Where is God in all this? Why didn’t God give me more help? Why does God allow all this suffering, as in New Zealand at the moment, and endlessly in many of the poorer parts of the world? It’s indeed one reason why some people give up believing in God. They see religion as a killjoy with no perks! Don’t do this, don’t do that…. and where is God’s so-called help when I need it? Yes, I actually heard two students passing the Chaplaincy this week, and one said to the other “That’s where you go to admit all your sins!” – and they both laughed and passed on quickly. Clearly that was all they though t religion was for.. and they were, of course, not interested.
We need to remind ourselves that our faith is not about our little sins, but about how we can find meaning and hope in our lives despite our sin. We have accept that we will all face sadness, failure, sickness and difficulties of one kind or another – and death itself eventually, but that there are ways through all this – that simply trying to make it all go away is not a real option.
That’s why our Christian faith is focused on the cross of Jesus Christ. Looking at the cross reminds us that God is with us in all our troubles whether we realize or feel this or not. We may feel, like the people of Zion in our 1st reading (Isaiah 49:14-15) “The Lord has forgotten me.” But the answer comes back firmly that even if everyone else, even one’s own mother, forgets, God never forgets. God is always with us. I said last week, and say again now – this is the heart of prayer. Reminding oneself over and over again that God is with us and in us, that we are precious to him, whatever life throws at us. That’s why Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God”, pray “Thy Kingdom come”, and “Know that I am with you always, to the end of the world”. All the other things in life.. money.. possessions… work… come into focus in a different way when we put God and his goodness first.
Google Footsteps in the Sand to see all this expressed in a different if slightly sentimental way.