Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Do not Worry

Sunday 12 September 2021
15th After Trinity

Sung Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

One of my more unusual colleagues in the Army was an officer in the Royal Logistics Corps

He lived in the Mess with me and others in Herford and had an unorthodox route into the Army

He started his life not knowing what to do with himself so he joined a circus where he cultivated an act as a clown

However, this was not just your average clown with a red nose, “squirty” flower and large feet

His act involved him skydiving into the big top

After throwing himself out of an aeroplane, he would literally come down to earth

Whereupon he got on a monocycle, with an impossibly high seat, and then cycled into the big tent

The Army probably took a risk when they selected him for officer training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst

However, their judgement was rewarded when he was awarded the Queens Medal for Gallantry after defusing a bomb in Northern Ireland

We spent two years together in the Mess and, over time, we got to know each other well

He was good company and, inevitably, we touched on matters of faith

He had not the slightest interest in religion and made no secret of the fact that he was an atheist

However, he was also the son of a missionary and had the utmost respect for his Father

And he told me an extraordinary story

Whilst working as a missionary in Africa his Father was captured by some bandits who put a gun to his head

Seeing that he was man of God, they told him to deny his faith otherwise they would shoot him

To their surprise his Father welcomed their invitation to end his life

He told them that, as a Christian, he had nothing to fear

The bandits were so taken by the strength of his faith that they let him go

It was an extraordinary tale of courage, which his son had clearly inherited in another guise

The story has always stayed with me

As it seems to me that it is the ultimate testament of faith not to fear death

The reading this morning is about worry

I must confess that I am dreadful worrier and can worry about almost anything

There is a lovely saying about worry which goes along the lines “I’ve got nothing to worry about, something must be wrong”

I suspect that I am not alone – but Jesus send us a very clear message this morning that we should not worry and the reasons why

First of all, we need to understand that worry won’t change anything

As He puts it “can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to the span of your life?”

And the answer is clearly no

In a similar passage in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus goes further and points out the obvious by saying

“If you can’t do so small a thing as that, why worry about the rest” (Luke 12: 26)

And he is absolutely right, worrying gets us nowhere

Secondly, we need to learn to live one day at a time – otherwise we can spoil our lives

Jesus makes it clear that there is enough trouble for each day and we should therefore focus on living each day as it comes, without worrying about tomorrow

As he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow brings worries of our own”

There is a rather good quote which says that

“Planning for tomorrow is time well spent. Worrying about tomorrow is time wasted”

And I could not agree more

Thirdly, and above all, we all need to trust in God

He uses the beautiful illustration of the birds of the air

As he says “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them”

Likewise with the lilies of the field

“They neither toil nor spin yet Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of them”

Jesus makes it clear that we need not worry about these things

Because, if we strive first for the Kingdom of God “all these things will be given to you as well”

God not only knows our needs, but he is more than able to care of them on our behalf

Whilst I was training for ordination, I spent a week with an Orthodox priest and Catholic nun in an Immigration Centre outside Cambridge

It was a dystopian experience in what was clearly then a failing system – and is now

But I recall speaking to an Eritrean who was facing the possibility of being deported back to his home country

As we know Eritrea is an extremely dangerous place and I would have been extremely worried

But the Eritrean was the opposite

Rather than tell me his woes, he simply mentioned the story of Moses throwing his arms in the air in the face of overwhelming odds from the Amalekites

He told me that God would prevail

Put another way, if we trust in God and throw ourselves on his mercy, all will be well

Which brings me back to the story of my colleague in the Army and his missionary Father

Like his son, he showed extreme courage in the face of death

Prepared to die rather than deny his God

And this lack of concern about death, this lack of worry, is, in my view, is a barometer of all our faith

The novelist Julian Barnes said

“Death never lets you down, remains on call seven days a week, and is happy to work three consecutive eight hour shifts”

Of all our worries, death is probably the greatest and most pronounced

As Christians, Resurrection Life is a core component of our faith

But an ability to accept our mortality is a sign of spiritual maturity and wisdom –

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom”

The Orthodox Prince Trubetskoy “The royal doors are opening! The Great liturgy is about to begin”

Deny your God?

We “have nothing to fear”