Reflections on the readings for Sunday 27 February 2011
Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3, 6-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
In times of crisis and difficulty, it is almost inevitable that we ask ‘Where is God in all this?” The prophet Isaiah gives voice to this sense of despair on the part of God’s people. But he then goes on to assert that God will NEVER abandon us, however God-forsaken we may feel. If this is true, then there must be a still centre to the storm, where, even in the deepest darkness, we can experience the peace of God. The psalm speaks of it as ‘resting in God’. But how are we to find this place of trust?
Perhaps what is needed is a singleness of focus. When we are pulled in different directions, chasing different and often mutually conflicting priorities, it will be impossible to find the still centre, even in good times. Jesus warns us of the impossibility of effectively serving two masters. We could be working for the goal of financial and personal security, or of being popular or respected, or of being seen to ‘have arrived’, or simply being able to survive without needing to depend upon other people. But if that is what dictates our life commitments and choices, then in chaotic times we may lose our equilibrium and become vulnerable to storm damage. Jesus suggests a different way – to “seek first the Kingdom of God”. Surely this isn’t about being so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. It’s about trusting God and living out of that trust. It is about living in the light of what we understand God to be doing in the world. It’s about simplifying our goals, sharpening our focus. The effect that Jesus points to is that it will enable us to stop worrying. It won’t simply allow us to escape the pressures of life, but it will give us the bigger perspective in which to place them, the centre around which everything else can find its proper place.
St Paul embodies this Kingdom focus in action. He has chosen his ‘master’ – he is the servant of Christ. His only concern is to faithfully live that out, something he does in a surprisingly self-forgetful way. He doesn’t have to worry about what other people think, because he’s not answerable to them anyway. He’s living to please an audience of One. But neither does he pass judgement on himself. He just gets on with living in good conscience, reflective enough to be living with integrity, but not so introspective that he is always second-guessing his motives and worrying about whether he is really seeking God’s kingdom. If God is at the centre then our ego isn’t, even if that ego is trying to be good and holy. The ‘master’ that Jesus warns us against is mammon, which is wealth and a desire to be rich. The master that Paul refuses to serve is the opinion of others.
The antidote to worry is to learn to trust. When we find the still centre and learn to rest in God, then lack of worry isn’t naïve optimism or a head-in-the-sand approach to our very real crises and difficulties. It is confidence in the God who is bigger than our problems.