Thursday, February 24, 2011

What, me worry???

Matthew 6:24-34 is our text this week. A well-worn, over-worked text about worry...or should I say 'not worrying'?

Jesus starts out telling us that we cannot serve two masters which is true enough. There are plenty of proverbs from other cultures that repeat this wisdom though my favourite has to be "You can't ride two horses with one ass". Sooner or later you have to decide which one will be your foundation or leader. This choice leads into what follows.

Now I confess that I don't worry overly much about these wife is the one who does more than enough for the both of us. However I do plan and save and act in ways that will ensure that my family has food and clothing and shelter. We have made the appropriate investments for retirement income. And I don't think that Jesus is talking about living a sort of laid back, drop out sort of lifestyle here. We have been called to be stewards and managers of God's creation from the very beginning. What he is warning us against is allowing the things out of our control to dominant our lives. For example...

I read in the paper the other day that there is a new food crisis facing our world. Then all the unrest in Egypt, Libya, and other Middle East countries is threatening oil supplies. Further on I came across a story about the 'super bugs' that are developing which are resistant to all our current forms of medicine. And there was more. All these things to worry about. All this stuff to make me anxious about...what? Today? Right now? No! About what could happen...might day...someday. So there is real wisdom in Jesus words in verse 34 of the text:

"So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings."

Good words. But they still don't answer the basic question...if I am not suppose to worry, then what is it I am suppose to do?

Jesus says, "Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you..."

So good one...and that means??? Well truth is, I am not sure.

I do know that worry doesn't get me anywhere. In point of fact, worry usually results in a great deal of wasted energy, useless activity and lack of sleep, all of which makes me a bear to live with. Nothing constructive in that.

At the same time, mindless trusting in God's provision can end up in hunger, nakedness and homelessness. Nothing constructive in that either.

Somewhere there is a balance to be found between using the God-given commonsense to plan and manage the life with which God has entrusted me on this earth in this day and time, and trusting God to guide, direct, give me wisdom and ultimately control all that is beyond my control or understanding.

As Shakespeare wrote: "Therein lies the rub."

I am still working on it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As if...

Reading through Matthew 5:21-37 I get that feeling of being overwhelmed by what Jesus is setting as the standard for Christian living. It's not enough that the Law prevents me from external action, but now Jesus reminds me that the Law is also about internal reflection. Not just what I am doing, but what is it that motivates me and drives me. What are the attitudes behind what I do? The end result is always the same. Honest reflection and self-examination reveals constant failure on my part to live up to these ideals. So what hope do I have?

Martin Luther saw in these verses, as he did in so many other places of Scriptures, the constant reminder of the impossibility of the task to live the Christian God-pleasing life in my own reason and strength. These words of Jesus remind us of how far we fall short and of our deep need for one who can fulfil the Law for us and keep it perfectly in all ways and all parts. Only one human can do that...Jesus. The condemnation of the Law points me to the saving Gospel.

Jesus has kept the Law perfectly for me. Through his sacrificial life and death I now live in the grace and power of my baptism. Though I strive to live the Christ-like life to the best of my ability, ultimately it is Christ himself who lives his life in and through me and brings me into a living relationship with our gracious God. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15...He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Salt City light and the Law...

In Matthew 5:13-20 we find the words of Jesus where he describes our lives as Christians with the pictures of salt, a city on a hill, light, all things that are as noticeable by their absence as they are by their presence. Too much salt or too little salt and food is inedible or tasteless. A city on a hill dominates the sky line, but if it is destroyed it's absence still dominates the view. Light can be so bright it blinds us or so dim it does no good. There is something here about our faith and our public life. Though we see our faith as personal and therefore private, Jesus implies that it must be lived out in full view of the people around us. This is something that many of us find uncomfortable because we know that living publicly means that failures, as well as successes, are easily seen by others. Yet to withhold our faith from public display makes us tasteless salt or a hidden city or a lamp under a bushel and therefore all the more useless. Better we try to live out our faith with all our failures and weaknesses, and let those around us experience authentic and real Christian faith and life, than we remain silent and hidden, and as a result, God also remains silent and hidden.

As to the Law...Jesus makes it pretty clear...but to exceed the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees is actually quite simple. We seek to fulfill the Law as a response to the grace that we have received from God, not to curry his favour. That's all it takes. Again, it is not about the perfect performance, but about authenticity and reality. Paul puts it so well in Ephesians...for it is by grace that you have been save through faith, not of works lest any one should boast.

When the world is crying out for people who are real and authentic, and looking for that which is truly of value and purpose, the message of the Gospel is all this and more as you and I strive to live it out each day.