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Two Phrases

Two Phrases

Monday, Septemeber 26, 2011 — Week of Proper 21, Year One

Lancelot Andrews, Bishop of Winchester, 1626

Wilson Carlile, Priest, 1942

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 986)

Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) 89:19-52 (evening)

2 Kings 17:24-41

1 Corinthians 7:25-31

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.” Matthew 6:25a, 33

These two familiar phrases bracket today’s popular passage from the sermon on the mount. It strikes me that there are at least two ways to think about this passage. A traditional and comforting way of reading this passage is as an exhortation to relax and trust. That’s a good message. We all do our best work and live most fruitfully when we are relaxed, optimistic, and open. Anxiety and worry only waste our energy.

But another way of thinking about this passage is to focus on the last verse first, connecting it with the Lord’s Prayer we have been given earlier in this same chapter. Indeed, if the economic admonitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the other parts of this sermon were actually practiced, the needs that we worry about — “what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body what you will wear” — such needs would be eliminated.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with a series of Beatitudes that showers blessing and happiness especially upon the poor, weak and humble. Such is the priority of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims. Jesus invites us to be salt and light; to treat others justly, especially those of our closest relationships; to “give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you;” to “love your enemies;” to give alms humbly; to pray; to store up treasures not on earth but in heaven. Jesus is describing what the Kingdom of God looks like.

In the center of all that wisdom he teaches us to pray “Your kingdom come.” In such a kingdom, God’s will would be done; our bread for tomorrow would be given; we would forgive our debtors and be forgiven our debts. In a political and economic order like that — a kingdom like that — the basic needs of life would be protected. If in our kingdom here in the United States we were striving first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all of these things would indeed be supplied to all.

Two phrases: “Do not worry… Strive first for the kingdom of God.”

It is a good thing to let go of worry and anxiety. It only wastes our spirit.

It is also a good thing to practice the ethics and economics of the kingdom of God. Were we to do so, no one would have a realistic reason to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. Such a kingdom (rule, government, authority, economic system, political practice, etc) would be our practice of God’s reign. It is the central desire of Jesus for us. “Thy kingdom come.”

How can I let go of worry and anxiety today?

How can I promote the values of the kingdom of God — personally, economically, and politically?

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