Readings: Genesis 1.1 – 2.3; Psalm 136. 1-9, 23-26; Romans 8. 18-25; Matthew 6. 25-34 (view all)
It’s funny the different ways in which our worries and insecurities often make us behave.
Growing up in my family, we could always tell when my Dad was worried or stressed about something, because he would go around tidying the house, usually beginning with the living room — moaning as he went about how the whole place was in ‘such a state’.
Meanwhile, my wife Amy can’t go to bed unless she has checked that all the outside doors in the Rectory are properly closed and locked. Otherwise, she will lie down in bed and worry about whether she’s forgotten to do them.
For me, my worries often express themselves in my dreams. If I have a big service or meeting coming up, I will often have a strange dream about it beforehand, where I forget my notes and have to make it up as I go, or halfway through realise that I’m wearing the wrong clothes!
I wonder how your worries express themselves in your life?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus encourages his followers not to worry about anything. On this Creation Sunday, our readings invite us to trust in the Creator, who provides for all his creatures, but also challenge us to reflect honestly on the broken state of our world, in which there is so much to make us anxious.
So as we reflect on God’s character as our creator, and the nature of his creation, I wonder how we can live more fully as God’s children?
Jesus’ words in our gospel reading make more poetic sense than rational sense. He challenges his first disciples not to worry, by invoking two wonderful images from the natural world: The birds of the air, who ‘neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns’ and yet the creator God provides for them. And the lilies of the field, which ‘neither toil nor spin’ and yet are clothed more beautifully than Solomon, the most affluent and flamboyant of Israel’s kings.
If God provides for them, Jesus tells them, then will he not also provide for us all that we need?
And yet, for all its beauty which Jesus describes — there is another side to creation. A more brutal, and broken side. The ‘birds of the air’ do fail to find food. And the lilies of the field do die away. Perhaps these days, due to human activity more than other circumstances or bad luck.
It is as if, alongside the individual worries we each experience in our own lives, there is a whole additional set of stresses and strains which is carried by creation itself as a whole. Perhaps this is what Paul means, when he writes in our New Testament reading that,
the whole creation has been growing in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves…
Similar to myself and my family, our response so often to anxiety is to try and take control for ourselves. Whether it is dictating the appropriate layout for the living room, or locking ourselves securely in for the night, the impulse to dominate and subdue seems to have always been a part of human behaviour.
In previous centuries, this imperial attitude was often justified with the words of the Genesis creation account. By God’s instruction to ‘fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion… over every living thing.’ We can do what we like, they would have said, because the very Creator has given us authority to do so.
And yet ultimately, no matter what lengths we go to, we cannot control everything in our lives. We can take our own self-preservation and our own self-interest to extreme lengths, but there will always be some outside variable which will trip us up. And we will almost certainly make ourselves, and those we love, miserable in the process.
Rather than seeking to ignore or control our stress and anxiety, instead we can allow Jesus to meet us in them. When we are willing to admit that we are helpless, at the end of our own abilities, then we open the door for the Holy Spirit to enter our circumstances. For the love of God to envelop us and draw us — to ‘adopt us’ if you like — into the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When Jesus speaks to his disciples, he makes clear that the one doing the providing is their ‘heavenly Father’. And the one key event, which Paul tells us we are desperately waiting for, is the fulfilment of our adoption as God’s children. In fact, the thing the whole of creation is waiting for is the same: ‘the revealing of the children of God.’
So it is in the relinquishing of control, and of our self-interest, to God, that we are able to lay down our fears and our worries. It is in losing ourselves in God, that we are able to find security for ourselves and lasting peace.
And in striving first for God’s kingdom — God’s dream for our world — over our own dreams and desires, we find ourselves not restricted or restrained, but freed to live as children of the divine.
So, in our individual lives today, how can we relinquish control to God, trusting our heavenly Father to provide for us, and taking seriously our role as God’s children in the renewal of the world?
And in our life as God’s Church, how can we surrender our own agenda and concerns, to find freedom in following God’s plan for us?
How can we live more truly as children of God, grateful for all that the Creator provides for us, and thankful for the Spirit’s daily presence with us?
Speaking about gratitude and thankfulness, the great 20th century theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writes this:
Only those who give thanks for little things receive the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.
So, as we approach the Lord’s table this morning, may we come reflecting on all that our Creator provides, and for God’s constant presence with us, even in our worry and anxiety, and respond in love and thankfulness. Amen.