Scripture for this Sunday (Church of England deviation from Revised Common Lectionary):
Genesis 1.1—2.3; Psalm 136.1–9, 23–26; Romans 8.18–25; Matthew 6.25–34
It is very easy to take the wonder of creation for granted. Oddly, we tend to notice it when it seems almost out of place, as, for example, when we find unexpected water birds on a river that runs through a major city. There is something pacifying at being able to witness part of the wonder and variety of creation. Jesus must have known this. His use of illustrations using flowers and birds suggests someone who was at ease with nature and at home in it.
He lived in a world riddled with anxiety, and his own situation must have given him cause to be anxious. But he knew as well as anyone that God lavishes love on the world and has invested breath, or spirit, into creation. This can be a source of comfort and blessing, or happiness.
The sermon on the mount is an explanation of God’s willingness to bestow blessing on all, even those who do not seem to deserve it, or those who cannot see the blessing because of the troubles they face. Knowing that humankind is prone to anxiety, and that anxiety breeds fear and a poor response from many of us, Jesus asked his disciples to let go of anxiety and trust God. Centuries later, Reinhold Niebuhr captured the essence of this in his prayer: “God give me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Jesus advised his disciples to spend less time worrying and more time seeking the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. But what does that mean? An explanation is to be found in the sermon on the mount, which occupies several chapters in Matthew’s gospel, and which has provided the basis of the gospel readings for several Sundays past. Amongst other things, Jesus pronounces God’s blessing on the disadvantaged, exposes sins of the heart, challenges those who use the Law of Moses for personal benefit and encourages his followers to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek.
The sermon on the mount is a blueprint for radical discipleship, whereby we place ourselves in the service of God, learning and discerning God’s will and seeking to understand and fulfil our responsibilities. But it also means taking the time to look around and immerse ourselves in and enjoy our world, and take care of it (“radah,” or rule, in Hebrew), which is what humanity was created to do. Incidentally, to rule is to nurture, not to exploit, if we look at the way God rules, and the pattern of rule, or dominion, that Jesus demonstrates in his model of servant leadership.
Our world is full of anxiety, but Jesus invites us to find rest in the tranquillity and peace of God’s love in the world around us. In Menorca, we are especially blessed in this regard: we have many opportunities to be still and know God. Whatever else goes on in our lives, we have this gift – not to be taken for granted.