Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary Joel 2:21-27; Psalm 126; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Matthew 6:25-33 Do not worry about your life. World leaders are gathering this week in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the dire, some might say catastrophic, state of the world’s environment, and what to do about it. Covid, an illness which a mere two or three years ago probably did not even exist, except perhaps among bats, now poses an existential threat to the lives of millions of people around the world. In those parts of the world emerging from Covid lockdowns, so-called supply-chain problems and energy shortages dampen the development and growth of the re-emerging world economy. War and famine threaten societies from Tigray in Ethiopia to Madagascar, South Sudan, and Yemen, among other places. Religious fanaticism and political corruption limit freedoms and human development nearly everywhere, even in fairly rich countries. Meanwhile, we all have our own concerns and worries much closer to home. For my part, I wonder and worry sometimes if I am doing enough as chaplain at Saint Margaret’s to sustain, nourish, and grow our community. Have I forgotten to contact or visit anyone...? Did I put enough effort into my sermon, such as this one...? Have I annoyed or offended someone with a thoughtless comment or senseless offhand remark...? Others among us will have their own concerns depending upon their life circumstances: Am I raising the children right...? Have I been sufficiently solicitous of the needs of my spouse or partner...? Will I catch Covid? Am I working hard enough. Saving for retirement? Am I going to be made redundant or fired at work...? Do not worry about your life. Do not worry about your life, indeed. These worrisome words of our Lord in today’s account from the Gospel of Matthew and his Sermon on the Mount seem almost to mock us in this age of anxiety, as it is sometimes called, with their simplicity and directness. And, we might think, with their impracticality. How can we stop worrying...? How dare we stop worrying...? Will someone please tell Jesus that that is easier said than done? Will someone please tell Jesus that on top of all our other worries, having now heard his words, we are also worried that we are worrying too much...?
After all, what if world leaders do not agree a solution to the climate crisis? What if Haiti experiences another earthquake or hurricane? What if the Bishop tells me, Father Frank, it is time to move on? What if your kids come home with tattoos and become juvenile delinquents...? What if you lose your job? Then what...? Ask most people why they worry, or what they worry about, and they will likely give you a laundry list of woes and perceived concerns similar to the ones I have just given you. That, they will tell you, is why they worry and find themselves anxious. Most contemporary psychologists and professional counselors, Christian and non- Christian alike, will also tell us that that is simply not so. People do not worry because of their problems and cares, they say, no matter what they may be. They worry rather because of what they choose to think about their problems, because of what they tell themselves about their problems. That may seem a small difference, but it is an important one. People after all readily convince themselves that their problems are uniquely terrible and insurmountable; that no one has ever had such problems before in all human history; that their problems and worries make them bad people; and that other people will judge them or think ill of them because of their problems, and that that in itself would be terrible. None of which is true. Still, for or Lord the issue goes even much deeper. For him, the problem is not just psychological, although it is that often enough, but spiritual as well. It is a question of our very being, our place in the world. It involves who we are. Our life is seemingly the only possession we can truly be said to possess, though it too does not really belong to us. We did not decide to be born and become part of this world. And we cannot, as Jesus says, add even a single hour to our lifespan by worrying about it. Our anxiety represents an attachment to that which we call our own -- be it possessions, job, endeavors, or even family -- but which is not ultimately ours but God’s alone. We must “strive first for the Kingdom of God,” our Lord reminds us; an elusive realm of celestial geography which is in fact more a state of mind and being than of dominion or territory. Yet it is a realm which embraces all that is or ever will be. Only when we understand this and ourselves embrace the Kingdom can we detach ourselves from our futile quest for self-aggrandizement and possession and come to value and appreciate the world about us and our very life for what they are; not our possessions to hoard but a God-given gift and legacy which is ours to care for and nurture. This alone can free us from the anxiety which seems to much a part of the human condition. We are but stewards after all of the harvest which is the Lord’s. Our worry and anxiety only distract us from the reality of God’s Kingdom of which we are a part, the only reality that matters. Only when we understand this can we stop worrying about our life and start living for the Kingdom. And only when we do that can we be genuinely thankful for all that we call our own. And only then, will our harvest be great and bountiful beyond all measure. And for that we can be infinitely thankful. Amen.
The Rev Dr Frank Hegedűs