This is what I shared with church this morning
"Don't worry," says Jesus.
You can just imagine the disciples worrying. They’d given up their livelihoods, their security, to follow Jesus. They weren’t lugging suitcases full of spare clothes around with them, they weren’t earning – so how could they survive?
Today, of course, we are not just worrying about food, drink and clothes, but about the rent or the mortgage, the gas and electricity, the telephone, television, insurance, the car, the tax, the MOT, so it goes on. There are few of us, I suspect, that do not worry about the household bills, especially in the current economic climate. But it’s not just financial worries that we carry with us. Our hearts may be burdened by difficult or broken relationships, by our situation at work, or at school, or by bereavement. All of us carry burdens, and are weighed down by our cares.
Jesus says “Do not worry, God knows what you need.” Instead of worrying he says “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness.” And God will take care of those things that weigh our hearts. But what does it actually mean? Jesus spoke often about the Kingdom of God: it’s like a pearl of great worth, it’s like a mustard seed that starts small but grows to a great size, it’s like yeast that works through the whole dough, but still, the question remains what is it? It is not a place, or a political system, or a group of people – it is simply wherever God is acknowledged as King.
I’m not sure that is a lot of help either. Simply put, the Kingdom of God is home. Home is where the heart is they say, but it is also where we are loved unconditionally. I know that is not everybody’s experience here on earth, but our Heavenly Father will always welcome us home with open arms, ready to forgive us for the things we have done wrong. So determined is he that nothing should come between us and his love, he sent his son Jesus to us to show us the way home. “I am the way and the truth and the life” says Jesus. “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Jesus came to reveal the Kingdom of God to us, he came to die on the cross for our sins and to be raised again to eternal life, so that we too can share in that eternal life.
But the Kingdom of God is not just something for the future, Jesus invites us to enter into that Kingdom today. The Kingdom of God is only a prayer away. It’s not a magic Kingdom – there is no wardrobe to pass through, no strange initiation rites; we enter the Kingdom of heaven by opening our hearts to God, and asking his forgiveness. We enter the Kingdom of God when we say to him that we want him to be at the centre of our lives. I tell you, this is something we should do every day; to consciously open our hearts to God and invite him to be centre of our lives
When we place God at the centre of our lives we find a desire to know him better, to serve him – not as hired servants would, but as his children. We have a desire to live by his rules because he has made us his family. Those rules are not onerous – simply to love him and to love one another. It’s a simple concept, and yet we spend our lives trying to learn how. With God at the centre of our lives, we start to think about what we can do for others ahead of what we can do for ourselves. We find an inexplicable peace, a joy that sustains us through dark times, and a compassion for those who are hurting.
One final thing. Jesus also talks about seeking the righteousness of God. The trouble is that the modern understanding of the word has changed from biblical times. Righteousness is seen as meaning sinlessness, saintlike perfection. Righteousness is seen as being up there somewhere on the moral high ground looking down on us lesser mortals. Righteousness is equated with self-righteousness, thinking better of oneself than one ought. That is not what the bible means at all. Righteousness in the bible is that which builds up a relationship. Righteouness is all about relationships. That relationship can be within a community, or it can be our relationship with God.
So Jesus is saying to us, first we must open our hearts to God and seek his forgiveness. We must place God at the centre of our lives and seek to build up our relationship with him and with those around us. If we focus on God and on our neighbours, he will take care of those worries that burden us, he will bring us peace and joy in the dark places, but most of all we will know his love.