Wednesday, September 29, 2021



Some thoughts on the Gospel reading set for Harvest:

Matthew 6:25-33

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’


[1] ‘And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?’ The word lifespan, hēlikian, contains within the scope of its meaning ‘maturity,’ and ‘stature’. The observation here, then, is that anxiety does not produce maturity. That anxiety, as seed, does not produce maturity as harvest. A harvest, a culmination, of maturity requires a different seed.


[2] God is not anxious, does not sow seeds of anxiety.


[3] Jesus points to God’s reliable activity in relation to the birds of the air and the flowers of the earth. From this, the human, the creature made of and for the earth and the air—soil humus fashioned by God, and animated by the breath of God—is to extrapolate meaning. (That is, the choice of birds and flowers as examples is not random.)


[4] God is not anxious. Yes, I know I have said this already. See also [7]


[5] God provides food for the birds and clothes for the flowers. This addresses two very specific anxieties. In Jesus’ culture, in marriage vows husbands committed themselves to provide their wife with food and wool/yarn/cloth, and wives committed themselves to turn these into meals and clothes—we might share the labour of love differently, but the principle of partnership remains—and each committed sexual and emotional faithfulness to the other. We know that of Jesus’ disciples at least one, Peter, was married, and called away from the family business, the most obvious means of fulfilling his marriage vows. As the progenitor of birds and flowers and humans, God is our Father—and Mother—in heaven; but as provider of food for the birds and clothes for the flowers and whatever is to be extrapolated for the humans, God is our spouse, husband—and wife—to creation. The primary thing we do not need to worry about is God’s faithfulness, God’s covenant commitment to us. To be non-anxious, which is to display true maturity or stature, flows from knowing this.


[6] The life God calls out of us—and the life God calls us out from—is held in covenant love. The soil and the breath, and the creature formed of the two, the mystery of life, and the interdependence between all life—when this flourishes, it is called ‘righteousness’—these things are all cherished. This is the seed that produces maturity.


[7] God is a (the) non-anxious presence in our lives. What God has spoken will not return void, what God has planted will bear fruit, what God has sown will produce harvest. All in rhythms and cycles, as God has created the world.


[8] ‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness [or, for the kingdom and its righteousness], and all these things will be given to you as well.’ This righteousness is the alignment of ‘cosmos’—the world as we experience it—and ‘ethos’—the world as it ought to be. Sometimes the ‘cosmos’ pulls away from God’s ‘ethos,’ resulting in injustice, in an inequitable distribution of resources. Sometimes our ‘ethos’ pulls away from God’s ‘cosmos,’ as when we seek to secure harvests that, through our ingenuity and ‘work-ethic,’ violate the cycles of nature, exhausting the earth. Where we learn to see and commit to the nearer-alignment of our ‘cosmos’ and ‘ethos’ with God’s, there life flourishes.


[9] How might we ‘strive’ [search for, desire, demand] for such alignment, in a non-anxious way? Perhaps through paying attention to small things, as signs of the First thing, or thing from which the kind of life in which all life flourishes, flows. In this way, we might keep First things first.


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