"No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?' or "What will we drink?' or "What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his justice/righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.
I am not preaching this week at First Trinity. One of our Theologians in Residence from the U of C Div School gets to do that. But I'd like to offer just a a few thoughts on the work of the Spirit as it relates to this week's Gospel reading, and to some of our world's recent events.
This week's text, Matthew 6:24-34, includes the words:
"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his justice/righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (31-33)."
This piece of scripture appears late in the Sermon on the Mount, through which we have been moving for a number of weeks now, and which started by reminding us that "blessed are the poor / poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."
Theirs is the Kingdom of God.
It could be tempting to many of us to read Matthew 6:24-34 as a call to a sort of
"Don't worry. Be happy" theology
or life philosophy.
Which could then lead to such popularly pious sayings as:
"well, [insert name here], [insert crisis here] is in God's hands.
There's nothing we can do. Just keep praying. God will take care of it."
Such a reading would be incredibly stupid and irresponsible.
[Sorry if that's what you were gonna preach about.]
the Sermon on the Mount and it's compliment: the Gospel of Luke's Sermon on the Plain,
begin with the proclamation of the blessedness of the poor and the poor in spirit,
and then follow that by a call to seek first—that is to seek before all other things the Kingdom of God and it's justice/righteousness,
(that righteousness described in Luke's account of Mary's song,
"The Magnificat" which pious folks of all stripes seem compelled to sing, at least every Christmas,
as "the lowly raised up" and "the powerful ripped down from their thrones"
Yup. That's what you're singing about, folks...),
when our sisters and brothers in humanity, wherever they are in the world,
when they find themselves worrying about not having food,
or not being clothed even simply,
(let alone like Solomon in all his glory),
or not having other basic human needs,
(and, of course not having the power which would allow them access to these things),
such lack of access to the things that allow these sisters and brothers
(where ever they may be)
is caused by an oppressive system of government, political party, dictator, regime, etc.,
making these people the persecuted, the poor, the poor in spirit, the hungry, the thirsty, the cracked people of God whom Christ calls blessed,
while the "rich and haughty," of whom Mary and Christmas-singers sing indignantly,
sit comfortably, in high places, at our sisters' and brothers' (and/or our) expense,
no doubt, those sisters and brothers--indeed, all people of faith--are extended the call to seek first the Kingdom of God, where the poor and the hungry are blessed and the rich and mighty are ripped from their thrones.
Whether liberation and deliverance from Pharaoh's oppression in ancient Egypt, or tiny, weak, David's call to fight and kill the great giant Goliath, scripture attests that the work of God's Spirit is the work of liberation from any who would oppress:
Lifting valleys and lowering mountains,
Giving being to those who have no being,
taking the living dead and giving them abundant life.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," claims St. Paul in 2 Corinthians.
Humanity is the Crucified Body of Christ, looking for the Resurrection of the Dead.
Perhaps when we witness resurrection (up-rising) happening,
when we see freedom becoming,
when we see folks crying out for justice,
for the leveling of economic and social mountains and valleys,
the erasure of the gap between the rich and the poor,
In Libya, in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Madison, in several cities in China, etc., etc.,
when we hear of people fighting for the values described by the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, as described in the Sermon on the Mount and in Christ's parables,
perhaps we should be thanking God for sending God's Spirit of freedom and resurrection,
and praying (among other things) that such resurrections, such up-risings, such revolutions,
lead to justice, to peace, to liberation, and not to more death or dying among the living.
And not to another oppressive system. (Let's not exchange evil for evil).
That's how I've been seeing it, anyway.
God's Peace, Hope, Love, and Liberation.