Many translations render Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:27, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” However, the Greek word translated ‘span of life’ can also be translated ‘stature’ and the Greek word translated ‘hour’ is in fact ‘cubit’ (about one-and-a-half feet), and so a better translation would be, “... add one cubit to your height?”
I’ve noted earlier that the word Jesus uses for ‘body’ translates both literally as your ‘body’ and metaphorically as your gathered congregation. And so, it is not really a stretch to say that, among the layers of meaning here, is, “And can any of you by worrying bring about the numerical growth of your church?”
As ironic humour would have it, after the service this morning — at which, for a variety of reasons, quite a few members of the congregation were absent — two members were lamenting how small the congregation is, compared to a couple of larger independent churches local to us, and how hard it is to know what to do about it ...
Well, firstly, don’t be anxious! Size does not equate to health, nor to long-term commitment. And, in any case, we aren’t comparing like for like, as the Anglicans are simply spread across the city in smaller gatherings — which have their advantages, as well as disadvantages. If greater size was the best yardstick, we should close all our churches and gather together at the Minster — but I don’t fancy the chances of that proposal being well-received, for some very good reasons, as well as, inevitably, some unhealthy reasons.
As the old hymn goes, God made them great and small. And as the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy.
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