These words are part of what is termed Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Seek first the kingdom of God. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today
Imagine Jesus sharing reflections with people as he sat on a hillside. Many were there with their anxieties. They were living in times of Roman occupation and oppression. They were living in fear, worried about their future, and looking for wisdom. They will have sought help.
We could imagine we are sitting with Jesus on Wincobank Hill with our anxieties.
What did Jesus say to the people around him? Read and study the whole of “the sermon on the mount”. To understand the words of Matthew 6:34 read the words that precede them in the rest of Chapter 6. There are words about modesty in lifestyle, and not stockpiling for the future. The words in verses 25-33 centre on handling anxiety, and conclude with the words in verse 34. The wisdom is, do not be overly anxious about the future, live in the present by clear values.
There are three pieces of wisdom that precede the words in verse 34 and illuminate them. There is a simplicity in these words. Some may consider them simplistic, but they contain depth.
First: “Look at the Birds”. You don’t have to travel far for this. Just look out of the window. Listen to the bird song. If you want to develop the looking, get a good pair of binoculars to help. There are many resources to identify them, not least by their song. They work and play, and are melodious.
Two: “Consider the Lilies”. I like the word “consider”. It suggests pay close attention, study, be inquisitive, explore, appreciate. There is immense beauty in lilies, visitors to them like bees and butterflies, and wider nature.
Spend some time with birds and plants in your garden or travel further if you are able to. Time with nature offers nurture, nourishment, rest, refreshment and time to reflect. It can help to clear and still the mind and determine what is important. Getting close to soil can be healing. It is full of life. All people of all ages can wonder at the majesty, magic and mystery of creation.
Three: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. Direct your life by this rule. By rule I do not mean instruction, but way of life. To be a follower of Jesus is to “consider” and live by this rule. Jesus prayed “your Kingdom come” expressing his high priority and hope. Jesus is encouraging his followers to put their lives and anxieties into the wider context of the wellbeing God desires for all people.
Jesus directs his teaching anxiety about the future with words about how to live day by day. Seek first…
The words of verse 34 are not about fatalism, simply accepting destiny, or just leaving everything to God. There is a basis to them. It has been suggested that the Gospel writer added the words “so, do not be anxious about tomorrow”. Whoever is to be credited, these words make sense and hold gospel wisdom in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.
Make the most of each day. Live one day at a time. Appreciate good things around you. Seek the Kingdom and righteousness of God, “and all these things will be given to you as well”.
Inderjit Bhogal, 3 May 2020. Words shared in Sunday morning worship with Wincobank Chapel Congregation
This article can be downloaded for use here All documents on this topic are located here
On 15 May is the annual Conscientious Objectors Day when we remember those who refused to join the war.
With others I give thanks for all those who give their lives for justice and peace, and pray for a world without war and violence.
With the whole world at present, in our times of coronavirus, I give thanks for all those who work to provide care, prayer and healing.
I give thanks for all those who have upheld the witness to non-violence and peace. I find inspiration in them.
Today with the Corrymeela Community I especially give thanks for Ray Davey who was a prisoner in World War 2, and was released on 8th May 1945, and I will conclude my offering with a prayer written by Ray on 10th June 1944.
I want to begin with a prayer I wrote on 31 January 2020 as the UK determined to leave the EU which has at least tried to maintain peace in Europe.
PRAYER FOR OUR TIMES
Holy God Creator of the universes, the heavens and the earth. You make all people in your image; You know the hurts and hopes of us all; Your presence is deep within us and around us. Holy are your ways and holy is your name. For all the ways in which We assault and abuse your image in us, and in your creation around us Forgive us For seeking the best for ourselves but not others, and so often at the expense of others Forgive us That our highest ideals are marred by our selfishness Forgive us For our ways and words that bruise and break relationships, households, congregations, communities, neighbourhoods and nations Forgive us For the inhumanity, inhospitality, hatred, wars and violence Which destroy homes and displace people Forgive us For the inhumane, inhospitable and hate filled treatment of people seeking sanctuary, and of refugees Forgive us Holy God Bring us and the world to end hatred, war, and violence, and always to build cultures and communities of healing, hospitality and justice Where all are welcome, valued, belong equally, and have sanctuary and well-being. Strengthen us to work with you to heal hurts, keep hope alive, to make all things new, and never to tire of seeking justice and peace. In the Name of Christ.
For a reading I offer only one verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and it is from Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
I came to Ireland in my younger days to meet people I admired, including the leaders of Corrymeela. I looked up to them all, especially Ray Davey the founder of Corrymeela.
I recall once sitting on a wall by the Croi with Ray Davey. I was talking to him about an idea growing in my mind about Sanctuary for refugees.
In typical form Ray said, “If you have an idea you must incarnate it. Go and do it”. I did, and have seen sanctuary grow as a movement in Britain and Ireland and beyond, and I am thankful to Ray for his encouragement.
Ray is an inspiration for me because he stands out in a world littered with the debris of war as a peace maker. He never gave in to war and violence. He remained constant in his objection to war and in his work of building relationships of respect and trust.
Ray was a prisoner of war and kept diaries which he published. I have a copy signed by Ray and Kathleen that Ray gave me when I visited them on 26 September 2005.
Ray used his confinement in a prison camp positively and learned the importance of human community as he brought prisoners together for prayer, and how relationships sustain the human spirit in difficult times.
He wrote that “love is at the root of all things, not force and hate” (War Diaries, page 175). Ray stressed the need to live with this attitude consistently.
He wrote of “the sacrament of social workers”, of service, modelled in Jesus washing feet. “A revolutionary idea of leadership” noted Ray, “one of the master touches of his life” (War Diaries, page 211).
This experience he used as a leader and theologian while he was University Chaplain twenty years after he left prison, and worked with the wisdom and enthusiasm of young people to lay the foundations of Corrymeela Community and its work over the last 55 years or so.
Ray used his solitude to deepen his relationship with God, a communion from which nothing and no one could separate him. He was a man of deep prayer. Ray’s prayers reveal his deepest hopes and desires.
Only one of Ray’s prayers in his diaries make it into his book The War Diaries. It is on page 202. He prays that his life will be an “instrument fit” for God’s greater service.
I had the privilege of reading through Ray’s actual diaries when I visited him on 11th November 2010. I was particularly fascinated by his prayers and wrote down three of them into my own diary. I will use these prayers to close this meditation in a couple of minutes.
Prayers reveal our deepest hopes and desires.
What are you praying for in your time of confinement?
It seems to me that the whole world has one common prayer at present. Everyone is praying that a cure for coronavirus may be found soon, and for healing. No one is immune from Covid-19. We all want anyone who is hurting to be healed.
I dislike the use of war terminology in relation to Covid-19 like “enemy” and “battle”. We should talk instead about healing and hope. Be positive in your language.
Ray’s War Diaries close with important lessons (page 222). He concludes, “the things that make wars and unhappiness are not just Hitlers and Mussolinis, but are things in our own lives – greed, pride, dishonesty, lack of consideration. If we are to overcome these things, we must become different ourselves”.
Ray incarnated his ideas. The Corrymeela Centre was opened in October 1965 for “all people who are of good will who are willing to meet each other, to learn from each other and to work together for the good of all..”
Let me close by sharing with you lessons I have learned from Ray’s time in confinement, they are valid for our communion in times of coronavirus:
Do all you can, within your restrictions, to bring people together and build community
Love is the root of all things, not force and hate. Incarnate love in your lives
Never take pride in the humiliation of others. The sacrament of leadership is modelled in the humility of service as seen in the ministry of Christ
Invest in instruments and efforts of healing. Put away words and weapons of violence, hate and harm
Deepen your relationship with God. Devote more time to prayer
So, I will close with a prayer written and said by Ray in prison.
O God of all ages, we know that we live in momentous days, days of destiny and change.
Today we look to the world, we think of all that happens there.
Humbly and in faith we commit our cause to thee.
We confess our wrongs and evils, as a nation and as individuals.
We admit our part, and we accept our blame for this disordered and shattered world.
Be with all who take part in the struggle, endue them with patience, courage and crown their efforts with success.
May all the nations learn the folly, uselessness and senselessness of war.
And in thine own good time may a just and lasting peace be born from the ashes and destruction of so many lands and lives.
Give us the determination to live in patience and faith until the day of our freedom.
Breathe in us anew the burning resolve to fashion a society that shall think more of the things that bind men together than those that keep them apart.
Give us the will to raise a new community, God centred and God controlled.
Give us the practical willingness to plan the remaking of our own homes and the rededication of our lives, so that our land may be built on the solid basis of love and trust.
O God of our captivity, whose hand has held and sustained us through this weary journey,
Be with us now in these days of suspense and waiting.
As thou hast been our guide and strength in the past strengthen us now.
Give us the quiet mind of patience and confidence.
We remember thou hast said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth thee”.
Father who hast created the nations as all members of the great human family, cause the terrible strife to cease.
And when it comes to an end may reason, justice and foresight prevail.
Cleanse our hearts from the spirit of revenge and hatred and reprisal.
Give us the spirit of charity and forgiveness.
We would reaffirm our belief in love as the centre of life.
Give us the determination and faith so to live as individuals and nations that wars may be outlawed forever.
RAY DAVEY PRAYER DATED 10 JUNE 1944
A Blessing Creative God Breathe your breath of life on us. Forgiving God Breathe your words of peace on us. Empowering God Breathe your spirit of strength on us. Amen.
Inderjit Bhogal, Former Leader and CEO of Corrymeela
8 May 2020
Note: Davey, R.( 2005). The War Diaries: From Prisoner-of-War to Peacemaker. Belfast, Brehon Press
This article can be downloaded for use here All documents on this topic are located here