A sermon preached at St. Mary’s, Iffley by Graham Low on 1st October 2023
A few remarks about our two readings.
As we reflect upon the passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians about biblical imagery of sowing we may conclude that Paul is speaking among other things about how we use money, because the use of money is a litmus test of faith and discipleship. Paul’s theology reflects the bountiful provision of God the Creator to us, and the consequent human response to this in terms of our human work. This is expressed here in terms of our responsible sowing of our gifts and money, and its reaping to further God’s kingdom here.
The scale of the reaping obviously depends on the extent of the sowing. Generosity in response to God’s abundant grace brings rich returns. However this raises difficulties about what God is doing, and what can be expected, of people who live in those parts of the world where there is poverty and destitution. These situations increasingly occur in many parts of Africa because harvests are failing through climate change. And these situations also increasingly occur because political corruption is making people financially poorer as well and less able to sow, let alone harvest. And yet we are thankful for the disproportionately great generosity of people in such situations. Paradoxically generosity and faith often seem to be inversely proportionate to people’s wealth.
The gospels make it clear that our trust in God is to be expressed in free and sacrificial giving according to our means – not dutifully or grudgingly, but cheerfully and thoughtfully.
God provides the means of our life, partly by providing the seed for our life and activity, but also by multiplying the fruits of our giving in a harvest of good works. We can think of this as a blessing, as one of God enfolding God’s people in a cycle of giving and thanksgiving, centered on Christ as the ultimate gift.
Our gospel passage includes a loud cry from Christ: be freed from worry! How appropriate a cry in our world as we hear of more and more people struggling with anxiety and depression as a result of the pressures of modern life. Today we are to urged to work harder, to do everything more quickly, in order to earn and then spend more money. We are urged to be busy in order to have a newer car, the newest technology, more long-haul holidays. But there is no corresponding drive for us to have more faith or love or justice.
Jesus is not talking here only about material things – the bigger barns and stockpiles of grain. Jesus knows that there will always be crises in our lives. But no crisis has ever been averted or ended through fear or worry. When we worry we do so as if we are on our own. But we are not alone. The words of Christ encourage us to pause in our lives and think hard about what is really essential. We regularly need to ask the question: are we being dominated by non-essential matters in our lives?
As always, our witness is about God’s call to us to be citizens with him in God’s kingdom. To take our part in God’s kingdom we need to try and shed our fear and worry and to let ourselves be surrounded with the cloak of Christ. By doing that we can start to live an abundant life with Him and with each other. Amen.