Sermon preached on 27 February 2011

Here's what I said earlier today in the pulpit.

Consider the Lilies of the Field

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

For the last few weeks we have been reading the Sermon on the Mount and this is the last of the segment sound-bites that we have.

I’ve always found the Sermon on the Mount quite tricky to preach on. After all, preaching a sermon on a sermon is an odd thing to do.

I was thinking about this the other week when our curate Chucks preached his first sermon here. He did very well and I was proud of him.

Somewhere or another, clergy all need to gain an understanding of how to preach a sermon. It is a learned skill after all.

Working with someone who is learning to preach is interesting and rewarding because you get to reflect on what you think matters as you go along.

Now, the question I find myself asking is whether Jesus would pass my sermon class.

I have my doubts that he would.

For there is a huge amount of wisdom in the Sermon on the Mount but there are no wee stories in the Sermon on the Mount. No characters. No images. And worst of all – there are no jokes at all.

Jesus seems to me to have been too good a speaker by all other accounts simply to have preached this sermon, this collection of wise sayings from beginning to end.

After all, we don’t even trust ourselves to read it all on one Sunday nowadays. Its long and its dense. Its remarkable and full of promise. But I think its very much distilled.

I tend to feel that I agree with scholars who suggest that the sermon on the mount is less of a sermon in its own right and more a collection of bits and bobs from all over the place. I think that it amounts to a collection of the pithy bits of very many sermons that people remembered Jesus speaking.

Its as though Matthew’s Community went round asking one another what they thought the essence of Jesus’s teaching to be and then jotted down all the comments one after another and put it early on in the gospel to set the scene for the stories and parables and drama that was to follow.

Either way, I won’t pretend I find it easy to preach on. I don’t. And I suspect that its not always easy to hear either.

After all, the injunctions not to worry are not easy for us to hear. Do not worry about tomorrow, he said. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Its hard enough hearing that in Glasgow this morning, I think. What must it be like to preach it in Tripoli as Libya implodes or in Christchurch surrounded by the rubble of a shaken city?

Its hard hearing suggestion that we should not worry for worry is part of what we do. Its part of the human condition.

When I hear Jesus tell us not to worry, I wonder where he is coming from.

He seems at his most Eastern. Its a zen-like saying. Frustrating to me in its simplicity and in my anxiety.

Today’s trouble is enough for today.

It feels as though its coming from someone who is completely chilled. Sounds like he’s been to his yoga class. Had his chakras balanced. Done his meditation. Got into the zone. De-stressed. De-cluttered. De-toxed.

Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I don’t think we should pretend that’s easy to hear. I find that I want to give the Lord a bit of a shake, and say, “Really?!”

Today’s trouble is enough for today. Is that really true?

I want to say to him, but the world is unjust, change it.

Well, we have several options when we come across a text we don’t like or which doesn’t seem realistic.

Either we can either argue with it or learn from it.

Or maybe, in these postmodern days we can do both.

Today’s trouble is enough for today.

If I argue with it, I’ll turn into an activist. For seriously attempting to do something about something that is wrong is to be an activist of one sort or another. Whether it is joining a political party (and they’ll all be happy to have you with an election coming up) or campaigning about green issues or over issues of social justice like poverty or equal marriage or even getting stuck into trying to make the church more Christian than it so very often seems to be – all these are activist responses of people who would argue with Jesus when he tells us that today’s trouble is enough for today.

I’ve been an activist and am still an activist and know the joy or working with others or standing on your own two feet to try to put the world more to rights than it is already.

The taste of justice is sweet. And working for progressive change has so often been my drug of choice.

But what if I put aside the activism and try to listen. Is there a deeper truth in what the Lord is saying?

Today’s trouble is enough for today.

When I was writing this sermon yesterday, I got so het up about that saying that I did what you do on a quiz show. I phoned a friend.

What does it mean? I demanded. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Who can live like that.

I got an answer I didn’t expect, which I’m still thinking about and still mulling over and so I thought I’d share it with you so you can do the same with it.

Aha, said my friend, I’ve just been on a retreat about this and the wise retreat leader said that it was a way of asking you how you’d live today if you believed that all the worries of tomorrow had been taken care of.

I’m still thinking about that.

Would life be different if we assumed that tomorrow would have no worries? How would we behave. What would we do.

I’m fascinated by how what we believe in our faith changes how we live. (Ethics was always my thing).

If I really thought that I could discount tomorrow’s worries, would I stop trying to put the world to rights and sit in peace and tranquillity and the bliss of satisfied spiritual fulfilment.

My guess is that I would not – I think I’d still want to change the world, but I might try to do so from a place from which I would be more effective.

So is, today’s trouble enough for today?

Well….. Maybe.

Ultimately, I guess the aim is to live so securely held in the love of God that we can live as though tomorrow doesn’t matter.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.



  1. It occurs to me when you started your sermon that some humour was injected by a notable group at the back of the crowd hearing “blessed are the peacemakers” and “blessed are the cheesemakers“. This led to a discussion of it not being just cheese but all producers of dairy products.

    I refer, of course, to the version as told in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

  2. Rosemary Hannah says

    I think it is one of his tongue-in-cheek jokes. ‘Are you afraid that tomorrow you will not have enough to worry over – well, it will be fine, honest. Tomorrow there will be more than enough worry to keep you going. Enough worry for every day – if you want it.’

    It is like the two-a-penny sparrows comment – I have never been totally sure if they were sacrificed first and eaten after, or just sacrificed, but they, and he, sat there and knew the end. Two a penny sparrows, poor little things.

    I don’t think activism is any kind of worry, is it? And it kind-of fits – do today, today’s thing. The right thing. Let tomorrow being its own call to action. Do it, but don’t agonise over it – and that is certainly very Buddhist.

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    I meant, ‘just eaten’ sorry, all edited out. Also all handling-of-deceased-birds out. (Fox, hens, massacre)

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