Harvest. What a great event! When the people of the earth celebrate God’s blessing upon them of food safely in from the fields and stored up for winter!
What a relief!
Do you feel that relief?
Well not exactly. These days you may have been thinking as you came into church, when you saw all the decorations ‘Oh its harvest, of course!’ It’s important for farmers but for the rest of us? We barely notice now. The supermarkets are full. We get food from all over the world.
But this is not the way it used to be. For most of our history, we would as a nation together worry about the harvest. It is only in one life time, that everything has changed for us. In the 2000 years since Jesus walked on the earth, there will probably not have been a single one in which the whole country would not have worried about whether the harvest would be successful; would there be a late storm? What would the yields be? What would the market price be? Would there would be enough to eat through the winter? Would families survive? All through World War 2, food was a big concern for everyone.
And then on 4th July 1954 (two years before I was born), rationing in England ended and during my life time food has become easily available: all the year round, just nip down to Tesco, for most of us, or even, if we have no money at all to the Basics Bank. So easy really!
But this is not the case for all Christians all over the world.
Apart from rain and sunshine, what condition do you think you need for a successful harvest?
The Syrian wheat harvest this year will be 40% of pre conflict levels. Imagine what that means for an average family. Quite apart from the fear of violence, your food intake is now probably HALF what it was before. Always hungry.
So over the 2000 years since Christ, worrying about ‘what will we eat’ has been something that many people would naturally have done.
But if we in Britain are not worrying about what we are to eat what do we worry about?
Sermon – First part
The following results were taken from a survey conducted by Beneden Health in 2013 of 2000 people of the top 20 worries in UK.
1. My stomach/ being overweight
2. Getting old in general
3. Worried about my savings/ financial future
4. My overall fitness
5. Other financial debts
6. Low energy levels
7. Credit card debt
8. Paying rent/mortgage
9. Job security
10. My diet
11. Keeping the house clean
12. Finding a new job
13. Worried about my close relationship
14. I seem to be generally unhappy
15. Wrinkles or aging appearance
16. Whether or not I am attractive
17. Worried about my physique
18. Meeting work targets or goals
19. Whether my partner still loves me
20. Whether I’ll find the right partner/ whether my current partner righ
All of these 20 boil down to 4:
Physical appearance and ageing
In fact spend we spend 744 hours of 5840 hours we are awake worrying. So 13% of the time we are awake, we worry.
Sermon – Second Part
But Jesus says ‘Don’t worry’. Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.
So it is easily said isn’t it – ‘don’t worry’. You may be saying ‘but I do worry’.
Just to be clear:
Jesus isn’t saying ‘the situation you face is not serious – think of the refugees’
Jesus isn’t saying ‘don’t come to me with your pathetic troubles, I have enough to handle’
Jesus isn’t saying ‘i don’t care if you are suffering’
Jesus is saying ‘why worry – don’t you trust God will look after you?’
This is going to be tough to hear: you see worrying is practical atheism. It is essentially saying:‘ I don’t believe that God will provide for me today as he provides for the birds of the air and the grass of the fields’. Or I don’t believe that God has my best interests at heart.
But Jesus’ does not have a fatalistic view of life: a ‘what will be will be’ Que sera sera! Not a bit of it! He is not suggesting that we just shrug our shoulders and say ‘nothing can be done’ or what will be, is the best that I can expect.
No Jesus is saying strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
But how do we ‘strive for the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ ?
As Paul wrote from prison to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:6-7) ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’.
So instead of spending 13% of our waking hours worrying, which cannot add a single hour to our life, spend the time that you would normally worry, praying – see your worry as a prompt to prayer. Explain to God all the things that you are worried about. Hand them over to him. Write them down. Keep a prayer diary and then check once a month to see how many problems have gone; this gives us confidence in our prayers.
I have done this now for several years; it is great to look back over how God has answered prayer!
Most importantly, if we are to strive for the kingdom of God, as Jesus says in this context we should, as I explained in the sermon last week on James 5, we need to pray in every context: ‘your will, not mine be done’
And it may be his will to change your situation.
So instead of making ourselves ill with worry, we should take our worries to Jesus
and seek to follow his direction.
Prayer not despair!
And we are told ‘all these things will be given to you as well’. All these things we are worried about, Will be given to us, If we seek his will; His kingdom.
But sometimes, perhaps often, it’s going to be tough. As Michael Green the theologian points out, we live in a fallen world, marred by sin and suffering, hardship is inevitable and particularly for those who seek to live for God. We follow a crucified Messiah. We cannot expect a bed of roses, but whatever the circumstances, we should experience a sense of joy, coming from confidence in our heavenly saviour’s loving care over our lives.
Michael Green tells a story about a 14th century German mystic called Johann Tauler which encapsulates what Jesus wants for his disciples.
One day Tauler met a beggar. ‘God give you a good day, my friend,’ he said. The beggar answered, ‘I thank God I never had a bad one.’ Then Tauler said, ‘God give you a happy life, my friend.’‘I thank God’, said the beggar, ‘that I am never unhappy.’
In amazement Tauler asked, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well,’ said the beggar, ‘when it is fine I thank God. When it rains I thank God. When I have plenty I thank God. When I am hungry I thank God. And, since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him, pleases me,why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?’
Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am a king,’ said the beggar.‘Where, then, is your kingdom?’ asked Tauler. The beggar replied quietly, ‘In my heart.’