29-32 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.
I love the way Peterson rephrases the familiar phrase, “seek ye first the kingdom of God” Matt 6:33 KJV. He says, steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. All your other needs just fall into place. Jesus has already taught the disciples and us to see God as a loving parent. He teaches us to pray, our dad, our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. There is intimacy warmth, care and protection in that image of God as a loving Parent. So, if we steep ourselves in this warm loving relationship celebrating God’s reality, initiative and provisions we won’t have to worry about food and clothing etc. Our deepest needs and even our most superficial needs will be met.
Now I think for most of us we have a sense that there are two dimensions to a deep relationship with God. We know we are called to love God with our whole being, heart, mind, soul and strength. The second dimension coming out of the second great commandment, we need to love our neighbour. We can’t honestly say we love God without loving our neighbour.
So, to seek the Kingdom of God starts with loving God and our neighbour. Loving our neighbour can be very difficult. It is hard enough with people in our own family. Some of them can be quite difficult at times. They drive us crazy. When we come to church we meet others who are our neighbours. As we get to know them, we realise this is even harder. We have very high expectation for our brothers and sisters in the Church and it hurts deeply when they say or do things that diminish us.
The Christians in the Church of Corinth obviously struggled even to see other members of the Church as neighbours deserving respect and love. They had been arguing and it set up polarities, some siding with Paul, others with Peter and others with Apollos. Paul wrote to chastise them and to call them back to a deeper richer understanding of the Church as the body of Christ each with our own gifts and calling with in the church.
But we know from the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus wants us to go beyond this. He wants us to behave as a neighbour to anybody in need. Jesus stretches us to see every human being as a neighbour and to love them.
Modern scholars want to draw our attention to a deeper understanding. Thomas Berry, an American scholar suggests our relationships with God and with other people is dependant of our relationship with the earth and the whole universe. He wants us to see our place and role in the universe as completely dependent on the habitats, flora, and fauna of Earth, all of which have intrinsic value not dependent on human needs or wants.
Now Berry and other scholars are not making this suggestion just because they are following a trendy fad. They point back to previous generations like the Celtic church of the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. They remind us of St Francis in the 12th Century and Meister Eckhart in the 13th and early 14th centuries. But of course, they go back to the Scriptures and point us to a strong strand of scripture that celebrates the earth and calls us to care for it.
Is it possible then to see the earth with all the wonderful animals and plants as being our “neighbours”? On Wednesday at our first Parish study we felt a bit like the Church in Corinth. Some could happily join with St Francis and see the earth as our sister, the sun and moon as brother and sister and so forth. Others said, no, they sided with the author of Chapter one in Genesis. We are to ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (Gen 1:28) We couldn’t agree on what subdue and dominion should mean for us. Paul would tell us to stop arguing and siding with Francis or the author of Genesis 1.
So even if we can’t see the earth as a sister to be cared for in the same way we feel called to care for all our neighbours, at least we can agree to respect the earth. We can agree that subdue and dominate in this context does not mean destroy the earth and all its creatures. A home that becomes so clogged with rubbish that it becomes unsafe ceases to be a home. But sadly, when people try to help the hoarder to unclutter their house they are met with deep resistance. They have become paralysed by their own needs to never let go.
Has humanity as a whole become like the hoarder in their own home? Have we become paralysed by our need for more and more food, more and more clothes, bigger and better houses and cars, slide 10 smarter and trendier phones? The list goes on. Jesus was speaking to people who mostly only had enough food for a day or two and only one more set of clothes at home. Jesus is saying to us stop worrying about bigger and better, more and smarter. Slide 11 Focus on the Kingdom of God. Love God, love your neighbour both near and far, and have a deep respect for the earth and all its creatures. Then “you’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out”. (Luke 12:31 The Message)