St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Congregational Meeting

We’ll be having one of our two annual congregational meetings on September 15th, after the morning service. If you ought to be writing an annual report, please try to get it to Sandra ASAP – otherwise come along, and hear what everyone else has been up to!

Father’s Day week off

Because it’s Father’s Day this weekend, lots of the Growing Place families have other commitments! So we’re going to have the week off…

Don’t forget, next Sunday (8th) we’re having a Porch Party at the Manse!

Messy Response

Those who came to Messy Church last month and wrote a letter to Barry O’Farrell MP may be interested to read his reply thanking us for the letters. I haven’t heard from Paul Fletcher yet, I guess being a Federal MP he may have other things on his mind right now 🙂

OFarrell

Freedom

Listen!
Psalm 103:1-8 | Luke 13:10-17
What are God’s laws for?

This question really goes to the heart of a whole swathe of Christian theology and ethics and social action.

What are God’s laws for?

The scriptures, Old Testament and New; and for that matter, the scriptures of other religions; have a whole load of rules and regulations; and religions have always been perceived, if not defined, by the way that they interpret, teach, or impose, those rules. One of the most common – and often, quite justified – criticisms of the Christian Church is that it seeks to impose its laws on those who do not share the faith. And whether or not that is a reasonable thing to do depends completely on how you understand the laws of God. If they are essentially religious in character – this is how you show your respect for God – then there is no basis for us to expect those who do not share our faith to follow our rules.

On the other hand, if the laws of God are essentially based in the reality of how we relate one to another then they may have validity, meaning, beyond the people of the faith.

And it’s hard to get to an answer to that question directly from the scriptures. For the Old Testament law and prophets were written amongst a people who at least acknowledged the God of Israel. And the majority of Jesus’ ministry was amongst the Jews – the people who claimed his God as their God.

The surface story of the scriptures will not help us in deciding what God’s laws mean in a society which is post religious.

But the power of the story that we have before us, as I’ve alluded to before from this pulpit, is not in the surface story, but in the currents that lie beneath.

Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, on the sabbath. And let’s just note in passing, since the argument that would follow was about working on the Sabbath, that no one seems to have any problem with the idea that a Rabbi, a teacher, would be teaching on that day. Since my kids think that Sunday is the only day I work, it feels a bit ironic that teaching on the Sabbath wasn’t controversial. But I digress.

A women comes in who has been crippled – doubled over – for eighteen years. And he heals her.

And the leader of the synagogue isn’t happy about it. This – healing – in his book, counts as work. This is a violation of the sabbath rules.

Now if Jesus was – as we sometimes portray him – this mild and innofensive guy who was just nice to everyone, then, really, he could have waited and healed her the next day. She’d been crippled for 18 years. Would one more day have mattered, really?

So the fact that Jesus didn’t wait, that he chose that day to act – that matters. That tells us something about the way Jesus viewed the Sabbath. And – since the Sabbath was a key part of the Jewish law – it tells us something about the way Jesus saw the rules of God.

And to get into this, we need to go back to the ten commandments.

Reading from Deuteronmy chapter 5:

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work

That’s about as far as we normally go. Six days to work, one to rest, keep the sabbath holy. But that isn’t where the passage ends…

But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work —you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.

The bulk of the commandment to keep the sabbath holy isn’t about what you do – it’s about what you make others do. The command is addressed to the powerful, the landowner, cattle owner. slaveowner: and the command is not so much “on the seventh day, have a rest” as “on the seventh day, give a rest”. It isn’t about a holy day, in the puritan restrictive sense – have no fun, read no newspapers, play no games – it’s not a holy day, its a holiday (and the word play is no coincidence). The sabbath law is not about religious observance so much as it is about economic justice. About freedom – giving an element of freedom to the least powerful in an oppressive economic system.

When we come to weigh a religious or ethical standard, a law that we might apply to ourselves – or evenmore so, a law that we might seek to apply to others, this is the first test that the commandment would have us apply: does this law, this rule, this ethic, give or take away freedom.

At first glance this seems to be the argument of the anarchist – for surely, all laws, all contraints on human behaviour take away freedom. Logically – to say “you shall not do this” is to restrict freedom.

And so it is. But, as it’s been said, your freedom to wave your hands around ends somewhere close to my nose: the law restricts freedom for one in order to give freedom to others.

The sabbath law says that you will not work, in order that others – your workers, your slaves, your animals – can be free to rest.

And why? The commandment continues:

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

You – as a people – know what it is like to be slaves. Even if you now are the slaveowner, the powerful; remember that. And never treat anyone who is subject to your power the way you were treated in Egypt.

And if the first modern lesson from this commandment is that the law exists to protect freedom, not to take it away, the second is this: the rights of the powerless need more protection than those of the powerful who can look after themselves. Remember that you, the people of God, were slaves in Egypt. Never forget that. You had no power, no rights. You were totally dependant upon others for any freedom they might grant.

Your law and your ethics – and your mission – must place more emphasis on the freedom of the weak than of the strong.

In Jesus’ response he makes it clear that the powerful, the religious leaders, interpret (and impose) the law in a way that allows their interests (their oxen and cattle) to be protected – even on the sabbath; while at the same time they would deny the rights of the crippled woman.

And so it is in our society – the powerful structure the rules in ways that protect themselves. Mining magnates run massive advertising campaigns (or even buy seats on the board of newspapers) to prevent a tax on their profits. Fossil fuel companies fund political parties who oppose pricing the emission of carbon dioxide, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that continuing to burn fossil fuels is having, and will have a catastrophic impact on our environment.

Multinational companies shift their operations around to avoid tax. Disney spent $60 million lobbying to get the law changed in the US in order to extend their copyright on Mickey Mouse; tobacco companies spent $14million in Australia campaigning against plain packaging laws (perhaps the thing that has pleased me most in this election campaign is to see the Liberal party finally joining Labour in refusing to accept contributions from the tobacco industry).

The powerful, the wealthy, do not need our advocacy. They do not need us to fight on their behalf. The law of God, the law of love, sets free: but they do not need us to help them claim their freedom.

It is the voiceless: the homeless, the refugees, those whose homes will be underwater if we allow climate change to continue unabated that need the law of God to protect their rights: those whose communities are destroyed by economic rationalism or by so called free trade that need us to stand beside them: those who are denied justice because of their race or age or gender or sexuality that we are called to speak for.

What are God’s laws for? They are for the protection of the rights and freedom of those who are disempowered. They are for the establishment of justice and freedom for those who do not have the power to claim them. They are to set free those who are bound by the injustice of the system they live in – whether that be sharia law, the caste system, dictatorship, or free market economics.

God’s law stands for the powerless. God’s love sets free. God’s mission, our mission, is to go into the world and extend God’s love for the powerless. And we can be part of that, or we can be part of the status quo – which always, by definition, grants power to the powerful.

That’s our choice. Amen.

Election Issues

Uniting Justice has a website dedicated to issues around the 2013 Federal election. To quote from the site:

It is not the intention to lead you to any particular conclusion about whom you should or should not vote for. It does not ‘rate’ the policy platforms of political parties. It seeks to explore the implications of the gospel for aspects of Australia’s national life. It contains material to help Church members identify important issues facing Australia, listen to politicians and political parties with discernment, and cast an informed vote.

I’ve found the “Issues Papers” (prepared by Uniting Justice, Uniting World, Uniting Care, Frontier Services, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and the Multicultural Ministry Committee) to be particularly helpful.

September Sermons

Thanks to everyone who offered their ideas for the big issues facing the Church today. It’s going to be impossible to address all the really good questions people have given me (sounds like this series might need to be an annual event!), but I’ve tried to group the main ideas into five sermon themes. So, as a sneak preview, this is what it’s probably going to look like…

September 1 A dying, irrelevant Church?
September 8 Engaging with our culture
September 15 Engaging with other faiths
September 22 Engaging with science and creation
September 29 Staying true to who we are

Catholic-Uniting Dialog

Short notice – but this coming Wednesday at 7:30pm, at Gosford Uniting Church, there will be a dialog between Rev Greg McConnell (Ku-ring-gai Presbytery Chairperson) & Bishop David Walker (Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay) on the topic: Priests or Ministers? What’s the difference? All are welcome!

Persevere

Listen!
Psalm 82 | Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Hebrews chapter 11 contains one of my favourite verses in the whole of the Bible. “By faith,” it reads, “they were sawn in two.”. Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of the rewards of the life of faith, I tend to think of things a little bit less, well, gory than that. Rather more positive.

And to be fair, the reading from the book of Hebrews starts on a much more upbeat note. The author is praising the people of faith found in the Old Testament narrative; those who from the time of Abraham, through Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets and the exiles and those who returned from exile; who lived lives of faith, lives in which they committed themselves to the worship of, and obedience to, the God of Israel. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness.

Now that’s more like it. That’s the image of faith we want. That’s what we want to hear, what it ought to be like. People who live according to the law of God, who live lives consistent with the ethical principals of the world God has created, find that such a life works. That it brings success, fulfilment, happiness; blessings from God, but also natural blessings, as it were, the simple consequences of living the way life was meant to be lived. Live a generous life, and you’ll find it times of need others will be there for you. Keep your word, and others will be true also to you. Be a good friend and you’ll have friends. Treat yourself, your body, with respect, and you’ll have good health.

And often those things are true. Perhaps, on average, those who live good, ethical, God respecting lives, live longer, happier, richer lives. Or perhaps not. You’re probably familiar with the couplet:

The rain it falls upon the just, and on the unjust fella
But mostly on the just, because the unjust stole the just’s umbrella

The author of the letter to the Hebrews doesn’t seem to share the illusion that those who live lives of faith will reliably find blessing in this world. For without even missing a beat he moves from “women received their dead by resurrection” to “others were tortured… others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented… they wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”

Strange rewards for faith. A strange advertisement for the life of faith. Yes, he says, some of the great heroes of faith conquered kingdoms, some won great victories out of great weakness. But others – others lived lives of poverty, persecution, torment, homelessness, imprisonment, mockery, torture, and execution.
I know – right now, every one of you is thinking “where do I sign?. How can I become one of these great heroes of faith? I fancy some of that torture, persecution, mokery and the rest!” One thing the author of the book of Hebrews definitely wasn’t gifted at was advertising. Far too balanced. Far too realistic. Far too balanced. Really not making the case for the life of faith at all.

Except that perhaps it only reads like that to us.

For we can’t ever get away from the fact that not only aren’t we the original audience for this letter, we aren’t even very like them. The original audience was Jewish, poor, and politically oppressed. We are none of those things.

Though we might have inherited the stories of the people of God in the Old Testament, we don’t own them in the same way as those born and raised as Jews in Israel. We don’t identify with the prophets and patriarchs in the same way they did. For us to be told “your faith is like that of David, of Samuel, of Gideon” doesn’t carry that weight of community history that it did.

And more importantly, we are not the poor, oppressed, and marginalised. No matter what might be said by either side of politics in this election campaign, the truth is that we as Australians live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world; and that we as residents of the northern suburbs live in one of the wealthiest parts of Australia. That’s not to say that each of us, individually, is wealthy – clearly, that’s not the case. But we live as part of an affluent subset of an affluent nation.

But the original readers of this letter lived as a religiously oppressed minority (Christians) within a politically oppressed nation (Israel), and were, for the most part, drawn from the economically disadvantaged within that nation. Oppression, mocking, violence, even death, were not things that they might choose to sign up for. They were the very present realities of life. To them this passage reads not as an ill considered advert: “sign up for faith, and there’s a good chance these rotten things will happen to you”, but as a reassurance: “Are you suffering because of your faith? You’re not alone. Look at all the great people of God who suffered before you.”

In a culture in which “Live right and God will bless you” (and lets not pretend that we are so much better than they in this respect. Every time you hear someone say “what did I do to deserve this?” you are hearing an echo of that mindset) – in that world, this is a reminder of a radically subversive streak within the story of the people of God. Bad stuff happening; curses, illtreatment, poverty, even martyrdom; these things do not invalidate your faith. They do not declare that God is no longer on your side. Look at all those who have gone before you – you can see now, with hindsight, that they were great men and women of the faith, and that God was proud to be their God. They suffered in the world, but that says something about the world, not about them. They were people the world was not worthy of. And though they never lived to see the land they longed for, they are now receiving it, along with you.

And just in case the examples of the Jewish history of faith are not enough, the author adds one final coup-de-grace to his argument. In the final words we heard read to us: “look to Jesus … who … endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The life and example of Jesus is the ultimate rebuttal to those who would claim blessings are the sure sign of God’s favour, and that suffering is always the consequence of sin. For it is the Christian faith that in Jesus Christ we see most fully the reality of God; and that reality is a righteous, godly, loving man suffering rejection, torture, abandonment, humiliation, and execution.

Look at Jesus, the author appeals, he is the pioneer of our faith and the perfecter of our faith. Look at him, and know that your suffering does not indicate that God has rejected you, abandoned you, that God does not care for you.

And so – and only so – it is that we can hear the author’s call to perseverance. And that – though we may not be very like the original readers of the letter – is a conclusion that comes through to us just as strongly as to them. Our difficulties, our challenges, our temptations to feel abandoned by God, to want to lay aside the sometimes painful burden of faith, to want to retreat into the status quo of our community when we could be standing up for those in need, standing out as a light of mutual love and respect and service; when we feel like we may buckle under the weight of what the world does to us and expects of us; then we hear the author’s call to persevere. Not with some sugary words of reassurance, or the empty promise that things will get better, or meaningless plattitudes, but with the crystal clarity of proclamation: your God is still with you. Hold on, for your God is still with you.

We are called to live, surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, witnesses who lived lives which challenged the world around them, lives which brough freedom and justice, which showed the practical, passionate, undaunted love of God to the greatest and the least; witnesses of whom the world was not worthy, but who were, in turn, worthy of the name by which they were called – we are called to live out our calling as the people of God in this place.

And we are called to live those lives faithfully, even when it doesn’t seem to work, when the outcomes are frustrating, even when life sucks. Not because that’s the way it’s meant to be, but because our God has not abandoned us.

Amen.

Look busy!

Hebrews 11:8-16 | Luke 12:32-40
Listen!
When I was at college, one of the other student – now a respected minister, so I won’t name him or her – had a couple of t-shirts which I, in direct contravention of at least one commandment, rather coveted. One, based on a hymn we sang last week, read “Morning is broken – I didn’t do it”. The other, I think loosely riffing off our gospel reading today read “Jesus is coming! Look busy!”

One of the difficulties that we have in reading parts of the New Testament is that the early Church clearly believed that Jesus was going to return to them sometime in the relatively near future. By the time Luke’s gospel was written – probably somewhere between 30 and 50 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, it had become clear that his return wasn’t quite as immanent as they had first expected; not a matter of weeks or even years; but there was still a sense that it was to be soon. The generation that had seen Jesus face to face, walked with him, listened to him, were now old women and men, carrying the story; and it’s no doubt at least in part this sense that the generation of eye witnesses was starting to fade that led Mark, Matthew, and Luke to write down their accounts, to make careful investigation, as Luke describes it in the opening verses of his gospel, to speak to those who were there and record their testimony for those who were not.

So perhaps it is the case that parables such as this one, of the servant, ready for the master to return, were gaining a new importance. For it’s surely not hard to believe that with the passing of the first generation of followers, the sense of urgency, the sense of immediacy in the message, in the mission, was starting to fade. There was no longer a sense that Jesus would be back any day, any moment, and slowly priorities began to shift. Where in the early days it might have been easy to give all you had – financially, emotionally, practically – for the cause, for the movement, because there was basically no future to plan for, the end was nigh, now there was a tension. People were starting to realise this work of the Kingdom was not a sprint, not even a middle distance run, but a marathon. Or not even that, perhaps; for a marathon requires complete commitment as long as it is run: more significantly still, followers of Jesus were starting to weigh their faith as just one call on their lives among many.
And so Luke records these words of Jesus, words challenging his readers; almost threatening them, with the possibility of Jesus’ sudden and unexpected return. Jesus is coming back – it could be any time now – don’t just look busy, be busy.

Over the course of history, there have been times and places at which this expectation of Jesus’ immanent return has been strongly part of the theological culture. Around the end of the first millennium we have records of people expecting Jesus’ return; and through to today, often in more Pentecostal movements, there remains a strong focus in this idea that Jesus is coming backm, and soon. And those times have often corresponded with times and places where the church has been (for better or worse) highly active. The sense of urgency, the sense of time running out – there’s nothing like a deadline to encourage us to get off our backsides and do something.

But for most of us, I’m guessing, this isn’t the way that faith looks or works. The idea of Jesus’ return doesn’t feel like a motivating force: it doesn’t convey to me a sense of urgency because, if I’m honest, it just doesn’t seem like something that’s going to happen any time soon. Two thousand years of waiting, I can’t see any reason to think that this generation would be the one to see it – even if we take Christ’s promised return at face value, which I’m far from sure about.

For many of us, it seems as if the expression of faith we are called to is closer to the faith of Abraham; faith which doesn’t have an immediate end in view “he set out, not knowing where he was going”, doesn’t have the pressure of a deadline to make it active – but which, none the less, finds the courage to respond radically to the call.
The whole of the passage of the book of Hebrews from which our reading was taken today, deals with this sort of faith; faith which hears and receives the message of God, the call of God, the story of God, and responds, with the totality of commitment that takes a man from his home into the wilderness; faith which perseveres – at times in glorious confidence, at other times in grubby compromise – but perseveres none the less; and faith which never sees it’s fulfilment.

Perhaps it is faith that hopes it will see the end; perhaps faith that knows it never will. The story is told of two masons, in Florence, in the 14th century. When asked what they did, the first replied “I carve stone blocks into the right shape, so they fit with the other blocks”; the second “I’m building a cathedral to God”. The cathedral was begun before either was born, and would not be completed until both had died – for the work would take four generations – but one mason had caught the vision of how his small contribution, his faithful application of his gifts, was part of something bigger, part of something that mattered.

It is a faith that never sees its true fulfilment; for that lies generations into the future: faith that, again, in the words of the book of Hebrews, “desires a better country, that is, a heavenly one”; that is, the kingdom of god; and a faith that perseveres even though it knows it might never see the end.

And it is there, in that distant, unseen, but always dreamed of, country, Jesus would have us place our treasures, treasures in heaven. For the words with which Jesus began our gospel reading are not so much profound theology, though they are that, as they are observant psychology: where your treasure is, your heart will be. The things you care about, the things of value, shape you deeply; they define where and how you spend your time, your energy, your money; they dictate what captures your attention, your waking hours, your passions. Where your treasure is – the things you place value on – there will your heart be – your life, your commitment, your choices.

In the end, whether our faith is driven by expectation and urgency, or by the sound of a distant calling and the vision of another country; whichever sort of faith is ours, we hear those opening words of our gospel reading: be of good cheer, for it is your father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom. God is giving this gift to us – so give, Jesus says – yourself to that end; be generous with yourselves, your time, your money; not because Jesus is coming back and will be mad if he catches you napping, but because where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

In the end, faith, and our response, isn’t about what we are doing when Jesus comes back; it’s about who we are in the meantime. Whether we will be people of the kingdom, people defined by our passionate commitment to the god of justice, of self sacrificial love, of costly reconciliation, or people of the status quo, the safety of the way things are, whose treasure is security in the present day.

Amen.

Vanity of vanities

Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 | Luke 12:13-21
Listen!
The Bible has, it would have to be said, something of an ambiguous attitude towards wealth. On the one hand, in much of the Old Testament, there is running thread of promise which identifies – or at least, on face value, appears to identify – wealth, in all its forms, with God’s blessing. Trust in the Lord, these passages seem to tell us, and you will prosper. Your crops will be bountiful. Your flocks will multiply. Your business dealings will succeed. Your wives and concubines (of which you’ll have a good number) will bear you many sons.

But as is so often the case in the scriptures, there is also a counter voice, what I’ve referred to before as another melody playing in the orchestra; often almost unheard, but always there, and occasionally prominent. And it seems to me that often in the teaching of Jesus he appeals to that quieter voice, that tune carried by the second violins. Sometimes we are tempted to conclude that the God of the New Testament, and of the New Covenant, is a radical break from the Jewish tradition; but on the contrary, as I’ve argued before, the radical teachings of Jesus – non-violence, love of enemy, welcoming of stranger, the doors of the kingdom opento all – are all there in the deep tradition of the Old Testament people of God. Often buried, but never lost.

And with wealth. For against all the suggestions that material blessings show the favour of God, there are voices of the prophets condemning those who are wealthy but not generous; and here, in the book of Ecclesiates (one of the least read books of the Bible, I suspect) we have part of the famous passage that begins “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”. In the section we heard read today, the author (traditionally Solomon) names the great truth about human wealth: it’ll all be enjoyed by someone else.

You can’t take it with you. Whoever dies with the most toys, still dies. Or, as a speaker I once heard put it “no one on their death bed ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time making money’.”

And Jesus takes this insight, this thread of Old Testament tradition, and works it into his response to a question from the crowd. A man wants his help in acquiring half of his family’s inheritance. Presumably the man has an older brother who is due to receive the lion’s share of the inheritance, and it seems as if the father of the two sons has just died. The younger son’s desire to have half of the inheritance isn’t just greed for the sake of having more stuff – it’s a response to the reality of death. This man’s father has just died. He’s the younger son and stands to get next to nothing. Suddenly, his life has become insecure. In response to this, he is attempting to make security for himself through obtaining possessions.

And so Jesus answers with a parable. There’s a wealthy landowner whose crops produce abundantly, so abundantly in fact that he doesn’t have room to store it all. In that day and age famine could hit without warning and set in for years, putting everyone’s lives at risk. So this landowner does a very prudent thing – he upsizes his barns so that he can store his bumper crop and thereby secure his future against the threat of famine. We’ve heard the story too many times before to judge it’s impact – but surely at this point Jesus’ listeners are nodding. It’s what they would have done. It’s probably what any of us would do. Invest in our future, secure our lives against uncertainty. The farmer is looking after himself and his family, planning for the future. All things we admire and encourage. But just when the landowner has done this, his time is up. “This very night,” God says, “your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” His attempt to secure his own future is ruined by the very thing that he hopes to avoid by storing up all his grain – death. It’s a story less about greed and more about how to live when life becomes insecure. About what matters, and what can be relied upon.

For this is a universal human situation. When life is insecure, we seek security. When we don’t know what the future holds, we cling more tightly to the things that we do know, things we feel we can trust. Sometimes our desire for security is so strong that it leads us to relentlessly search for the one thing that we believe will make life secure again. We may find ourselves storing up possessions, barricading ourselves with ‘stuff’. We may place our hopes for security or happiness upon one person or thing that we keep at the centre of our lives. We may place our emotional strength and hope in a cause, a political leader, a movement, a volunteer organisation. As long as we have that thing, we may find security, and even happiness. But ultimately, as the tired, cynical voice of Ecclesiastes tells, we will find that too, is vanity; that whatever we trust in will let us down or by taken from us, and we find ourselves searching for something else that will fill the void and quench our desire to be secure.

As is so often the case, Jesus’ parable is not directed to the question on the surface, the matter presenting itself. It’s clear enough from the rest of his teaching that were the elder brother there, he would challenge him to generosity with the inheritance that was rightfully his. But though he was asked the question “should my brother share the inheritance with me?”, the question he answers is “how can my life be secure now my father has died?”

Elsewhere, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Can any of you by worrying about these things add a single hour to your life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.”

Jesus knew, more so than we ever will, that God alone is Lord of both our lives and our deaths. He knew that true security, true fulfilment, true life can only be found in God, and in the service of God. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness”. Of course, following Jesus and trusting in God doesn’t mean that you won’t die. It doesn’t mean that you won’t come face to face with some real, deep, painful problems during your time in this world. What it does mean is that even when life is insecure and the threat of death is all too real, we can nevertheless affirm that the God who created and redeems the world is the God who was, is, and always will be. Even those things that threaten our security and our lives can only be seen and understood within the bigger picture of the coming of the Kingdom of our faithful God. This is good news – gospel: We belong not to ourselves, but to God… to God who is larger than life and larger than death. Larger than security or insecurity. To God, who is gracious. Loving. Dependable.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.