2nd Sunday before Lent – February 12th 2023
Genesis 1.1-2.3, Matthew 6 25-34
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Apart from our homes themselves, I want us to contemplate for a moment – What is the thing we have that is worth the most in terms of monetary value? It may be some beautiful work of art, or piece of jewellery or perhaps something more practical like our car or computer. I don’t have many really valuable things myself in terms of monetary value, but I do have some things which have great sentimental value.
When I was about 9 – our house was burgled when I was at school and a number of things were taken. I remember being most upset when we realised that my transistor radio (that dates it a bit!) had been taken. (I had only had it few weeks and it was a birthday present for my ninth birthday). It was not very valuable, and I soon had another one, but it was not the same. Even at the tender age of 9, I also remember not liking that someone had been in our house and been through our things. Not that we had much to take.
Some of the things we would most miss if we lost them or they were stolen, in reality, are those things that it would be impossible to replace. Like photos of special occasions or photos of friends/family who are no longer with us. Perhaps things, ornaments and mementos that remind us of significant events in our life. These things are generally not of value to anyone else – and their value certainly isn’t in their monetary worth, but in the events and people they help us remember.
These days we generally have a lot of possessions. I do worry about my capacity to expand what I have. The last time I moved 3 years ago – I remember being very conscious of this and I really do need to get it better under control. We also have a lot more possessions than any generation that proceeds us in this country. Lots of gadgets and technology in virtually every room (not just a battery powered transistor radio of my childhood in 1970!). We have things from a younger age and seem to want things younger and younger too!
All in all, I think we have got a bit out of kilter in society as a whole over the role of possessions and what it is that we have as we have so much. The comparison with others in other parts of the world is tricky to live with. We live in the 20% of the world, that consumes 80% of the world’s resources. In the cold light of day many of us have more than we need (and certainly most of the time) more than enough.
It is easy to then loose sight somewhat of the difference between want and need. We have easy access to lots and lots of different stuff. But – This is not true everywhere in our world. My heart this week has been breaking over the scenes from the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. For some at the moment in this country things are a real struggle with the cost of living. It is difficult right now! It is hard to know that in Wincanton and Pen Selwood – there will be people choosing between heating and eating! The number of people in fuel poverty is thought to have increased by at least 50% since April 2022. We are advanced and civilised in so many ways but then we are NOT advanced and civilised in others!
In our gospel Jesus is challenging his listeners as he preaches to his followers on the mountain about their approach to things – in this case the things they need for day to day life. He is asking his listeners, us and those who listen 2000 years ago to live more simply and centred on him. He is saying no matter what the thing is – clothing, food etc let alone all the things we have – we should follow God first. He is starting from what we actually need rather than from our 21st century western understanding of what we want. What we need is to have enough to survive day by day and to concentrate on that. Though we might rarely be at this level – it does put a different perspective on things and even then when we might be struggling Jesus puts as the priority – Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Being loving, generous and kind in all our dealings!
Even when we are struggling (and I am sorry if we are). There is much to hope of and experience in our love of God and God’s overwhelming love for us. In a way this reading challenges us and it helps if we take a step back and understand this from time to time. To get our perspective right about what we have and the power it can work over us if we are not careful. We own our possessions they don’t own us or drive us. I find it helps me to think I am a steward of what God has given me on our good earth – and that we should always be moving towards God’s love for us and caring for the good earth he made for us
In a way we have come across this thought at a good time in the church year as we move onwards towards Lent. The annual opportunity it presents to dig deeper and get closer to God and our reliance on God. To re-order our priorities and spend more time on our relationship with God. Understanding our reliance, and dependence. His overwhelming care for us and God’s amazing plan for us.
I urge you to take a full part in our Lent activities, if you can. Get hold of the book we are going to study together and read along with us. Or connect to the app, or daily emails, or daily hope line or get your smart speaker to do the necessary. This Lent we are particularly focussing on understanding how God’s spirit works fruit in us on Sundays and how to walk with God in our failures and stuff ups in our week day material – Dust and Glory. This will help keep us in perspective with our feet on the ground and keeps us understanding where God is at work in our lives.
Making sure we are thankful is another practical thing we can do to keep grounded. To reach the end of the day and reflect on something to be thankful for and repeat this exercise at the end of each week and each month. I was reminded of a thankfulness jar activity in a conversation recently. As an aide memoire write down the things we are thankful for at the end of each day. Put them in the jar as a visible reminder. Review them from time to time to bring home this message of thankfulness. This could be a good Lenten activity in the weeks ahead if it appeals to you and will help bring a little balance to our proceedings.
I am going to end by reading part of our Matthew passage again (if you are reading this online – then follow the link and read verses 30-34 from the Message – An American paraphrase of the bible. To help us dwell on these words. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6&version=MSG
Fuel poverty stuff from https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8730/
The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6&version=MSG
New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized edition) copyright 1989, 1995