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Friday, 9 September 2016

The something more for which we are meant to live

Here is my sermon from yesterday's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook:

The teaching Jesus gives us in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 24 - 34) is based on lessons drawn from his understanding of nature and creation. He looks at the cycle of existence – the circle of life - which enables all creatures to live and flourish in their way and time.

Birds provide his specific example, possibly because they would have been prolific and yet are not reliant on human beings for their survival. The birds don’t do any of the things that human beings do to provide food for themselves – they “do not sow seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns” – yet, in the circle of life there is a sufficiency of the food that they need in order to survive. In this way, Jesus says, we see that God the Father is taking care of them.

For Jesus, God’s provision for the birds is a sign of the worth that he sees in his creation as a whole and in each specific part. Just as the creation as a whole is “good,” so are the birds which are found within it. If that is true of birds, then is it not also true of human beings? “Aren’t you worth much more than birds?” Jesus asks.

In Eucharistic Prayer G we read that in the fullness of time God made us in his image, the crown of all creation. That gives us incredible worth and value, in and of ourselves and regardless of how we feel about ourselves. Our unique position in creation - being conscious creators – speaks clearly to us of this incredible privilege of having been made in the image of God. To what extent do we appreciate this reality? Often we can be so caught up in the busyness of daily life that we do not stop to reflect on the wonder of existence and our existence. Stop for a moment to think about the incredible complexity of our physical bodies and of our conscious existence.

Stop for a moment and think about the incredible achievements of the human race – the great art we have created, amazing technological developments and inventions, the cities we have built, the scientific and medical advancements we have seen, the depths of compassion and sacrifice which have been plumbed by the great saints in our history. While we are also well aware of the darker forces at work in human beings, our positive abilities and achievements reveal the reality of our creation as beings that resemble God in his creative power and energy. We can and should celebrate this reality – realising the worth that God sees in us – at the same time as giving thanks to our God for creating us in this way.

Isn’t life worth more than food and isn’t the body worth more than clothes, Jesus asks us. Often we can be so caught up in the busyness of daily life that we do not realise the wonder of our existence and do not realise all that we could achieve if we were to use our abilities and creativity more fully in his service. “We were meant to live for so much more” is how the rock band Switchfoot put it. Jesus challenges us to be concerned with more than the worries of daily life, to be “concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he [God] requires of you.” Stop for a moment and think of the unique way in which you have been created by God – the unique combination of personality and talents with which you have been blessed – and ask yourself how these things could more fully be used for the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth, as in heaven.

Stop for a moment and think about the Kingdom of God as described in the Beatitudes with which Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount. The Kingdom of God is a place of happiness for those who know they are spiritually poor, a place of comfort for those who mourn, a place of receptivity for those who are humble, a place of satisfaction for those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires, a place of mercy for those who are merciful, a place in which God is seen by the pure in heart, a place in which those who work for peace are called God’s children, and a place which belongs to those who are persecuted because they do what God requires. What might God be calling us to do for him to bring the Kingdom of God to others?

Jesus argues that the goodness and worth of all created things can be seen in the way that creation provides all that is needed for creatures and plants to live and thrive. Our worth is greater still because we are made in the very image of God having power over creation and innate creative abilities ourselves. It is incumbent on us then to use the power we possess for the good of others and for the good of creation itself. Bringing happiness, satisfaction and belonging by giving comfort, practicing humility, sharing mercy and working for peace are all powerful ways of tending and guarding creation and building the Kingdom of God on earth, as in heaven. Stop for a moment to recognise the something more for which we are meant to live. Dedicate your life to be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what God requires of you.


Switchfoot - Meant To Life.

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