When I saw that I was on the preaching rota for today, I was delighted to see what the readings were. The Genesis creation story and some of my Father’s favourite Gospel verses from the Sermon on the Mount.
I was pleased about the Genesis reading because I regularly study with Professor Tom Wright online. You might also know him as once being the Bishop of Durham. I recently took one of his courses called 15 Essential Biblical Texts. Unsurprisingly, one of the first sessions was the creation story.
We have all heard this story since we were children, and I remember conversations around that time questioning if the world was created in a literal seven days or not.
We don’t hear that conversation much these days, and I don’t suppose many of us revisit our early thoughts on the subject, but what Professor Wright had to say about the seven days of creation I found fascinating. Let me tell you more…
The Creation Story is God’s Blueprint for Creating the World
Bishop Wright started the session by suggesting that the seven days of creation compared to the strategy, in those days, for developing a blueprint to build a temple. Building temples then took many years (the second temple in Jerusalem took 46 years to build), and it was impossible to decide on the time to allocate to each component of the project in the initial planning stages.
The thinking goes that a similar approach was taken, by the writers of Genesis, to describe the world’s creation. The word days used to describe the various steps taken was not meant to be taken as a literal space of 24 hours but as seven sections of unspecified time. On the sixth day, God created humans, and we live now in the seventh day.
I like call this God’s blueprint for creating his world, all he made within it, and all it will ultimately become; and I understand that all these things happen in his own time and at his pace.
But What Were we Created for?
The role of humankind in God’s plan is to reflect his light into the world and then return the praises of the world back to Him. Or, as we will say later in our service, ‘to glorify his name’.
Jesus tells us not to Worry because God will Ensure we have all we Need.
These verses from Matthew 6 were one of my Father’s favourite lessons from Jesus. He quoted it so often that we had it read at his funeral.
Dad didn’t want his children to be fearful, and when we were worried about anything, he would often say something like; Why do you worry about the future when the lilies of the fields and the birds in the sky do not work, but God gives them everything they need to flourish.
OK, he was no theologian, but as I got older, I could see where he was coming from with his love of this scripture.
Because as an adult, I now see that if we let it, the world can weigh us down with worry until all our joy and hope is squeezed out of us, and we become nothing more than a sad old hollowed-out shell, of no use to ourselves, anyone else, or God.
God created us to be Warriors, not Worriers
When He created the world, he made us on the sixth day in his image; we were his ultimate creation. And, I don’t think the maker of the stars and sea created us to be ‘timid worriers’. Instead, I believe that he created us to be ‘bold warriors’.
However, I believe negativity in the world can turn us into ‘nervous nellies’; sadly, many people spend their whole lives living with their nerves on edge.
The word worry is used six times in this Gospel reading. So Jesus was clearly hammering home an important point that we need to take on board about anxiety in our lives.. He is telling us, ‘you don’t need to live like that’.
With trust in Jesus, it is entirely possible to think differently during times of trial and stress.
Matthew 6:25-34 NRSV
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[k]
or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 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?
27 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life?[l]
28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
30 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?
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I would like to suggest choosing to be: calm, confident and cheerful when something next threatens our peace and joy. Although, there are many other positive verbs to choose from, and if you Google ‘the opposite of anxious,’ you will find them.
Or you could go straight to Jesus and say ‘Jesus you take care of it’. Then, as you face your anxieties and worries, you will find the right thoughts and words to concentrate on, because he will intervene and take care of it. Although he may take you on a path other than the one you are on, but nevertheless he will guide and protect you. Learn more about the Surrender Prayer here.
God’s Grand Plan
In God’s plan, we are assigned to forget ourselves, go out to the world with the numerous qualities we were blessed with, and glorify his name.
This is not to say that we should all become Pollyannas, put on a happy face, and pretend everything is OK in our lives, when it isn’t.
Because spiritual cheer and joy are different to acting like we are happy, successful and OK. This happens more and more in the modern world, especially on social media, where people often tell their secrets to strangers and lies to their friends.
I remember the Queen once shared in one of her Christmas messages (2002) that she always tried to ‘take the long view’ in life. I like to think she meant that in a biblical capacity because keeping God’s ultimate plans in mind helps us to get things in perspective.
When we do this, we can better rise above difficult circumstances, that might otherwise crush us, because we can see the larger picture.
Others will often notice when we are coping well and ask, how?
It is then that we can best demonstrate our faith and hope in God’s plans for our good, by remaining calm, confident and cheerful – as best as we can under the circumstances.
How do we Practise Faith in Actions Today?
Perhaps you are anxious today or have been in the past; maybe you will be in the future and wonder how to apply Jesus’ teachings about not worrying?
I believe the answer is in our love of Christ.
There was a monk called Brother Laurence, a simple but devout Christian who worked in the monastery’s kitchens. He practised the presence of God in all he did. Whether washing a spoon, sweeping the floor, or cooking a banquet. He did all these things as though he was personally serving Christ.
Through this practice, he found joy and peace. He said, “It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.
Brother Laurence became famous and well-loved for his wisdom, peace and joy. He happily shared his faith with the many people who visited him.
When we love Jesus and, like Brother Laurence, practise his presence in the everyday situations of our lives, our anxieties will subside.
When we pay attention to the finest details and go the extra mile for God, our minds focus on the moment, and his teachings naturally come to mind.
As we develop this way of living, our anxieties gradually reduce, and over time, we can find authentic joy and strength;
And as we do these things, we glorify God’s name.