Sermon preached by Fr Tony Noble on Sunday February 27th, 2011


Matthew 6:25   Jesus said:  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life”.


It was a great joy at the 8 o’clock Mass this morning to celebrate two baptisms. This is very unusual – but the reason was because the two families are faithful members of the 8 o’clock congregation.


It was a particular joy for both the families and the congregation. The congregation has surrounded these babies and the families with love and support, as a parish family should. And I know they will keep on supporting the parents and their children.


When we chose the date I had no idea of the readings. They turned out to be very appropriate, and I’d like to explore with you how today’s readings fit in with the sacrament of Baptism.


Jesus says “Do not be anxious.” We all get anxious! It is part of daily life for many of us. But if anyone is entitled to be really anxious, it surely is the parents of babies? All of you who have been parents, or still are parents of young children, know about anxiety. Wondering how the children will grow up, wondering about their safety, their health, their education. It’s a marvelous, but difficult, responsibility.


Can parents of young children, therefore, really take Jesus at His Word when he says “Do not be anxious.”? For that matter, can any of us take Jesus at his word?


Some of us actually like being anxious: it’s part of our personality! And life today is so much more complicated that anxiety seems part of our daily lives – often encouraged by what we read in the newspapers or see on television.


I, myself, am slightly anxious about what lies ahead for me at this time, as you well understand. Many of you are anxious about our Parish, who the next Rector will be, what things will be like.


Last week I was in Walsingham on pilgrimage. It was a very special pilgrimage because I was asking the Lord to strengthen me at this time of change and transition, and to guide me. I sought counsel with one of the Franciscan Brothers at the Shrine. Having made my confession he said. “For your penance make an act of trust in the Lord.”


Easier said than done! But I took him at his word, because that’s what I need to do – and that’s what we all need to do.


We know the truth of what Jesus says in Matt 6:27, “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” Isn’t that the truth!


In fact, being anxious – rather than lengthening our lives, shortens it somewhat. And being anxious about our health only adds to the problems. Many of the health problems the world faces in Western Society can be traced back to anxiety and the frantic pace with which we are often forced to live.


So, maybe, it is the case that we really DO need to take Jesus at his word? To trust in Him, and not be anxious about our lives.


Handing it over to the Lord is the one solution we Christians have when troubles come our way, or problems seem insurmountable. Sometimes we wonder how on earth we are going to solve them, or how we can cope?


What we can do that others cannot do is to hand it over to Jesus. We have to take Jesus at His word!


Having established this basic principal of Christian living in Matthew 6,  Jesus then gives us those marvelous words, “Consider the lilies of the field”. What a beautiful image it conjures up!


But it’s not just a beautiful image! It’s a reminder to us that God is present everywhere in  His creation often in a beautiful way.


Sometimes the simplest things tell us the simplest truths. That certainly relates to the sacrament of Baptism: the trust and simplicity of babies being baptized. And not only that simplicity, but the great responsibility of the parents. And also the great reward and joy that comes with such a responsibility.


For parents there are many tears – but there is also the joy, isn’t there? And when theit children grow up, having been raised and protected and educated by them, what a joy it is when they turn out to be really great young people. Tears do lead to joy!


St. Paul sums up these thoughts about responsibility in I Corinthians 4. He describes himself as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God, and says it is expected that stewards be trustworthy.


It’s a great description for the role of parents. Parents are stewards of what God has given them, and it is a joy to be such a steward.


But we’re all stewards. We are stewards of what God has given us – which is our very lives.


The sacrament of Baptism reminds us of this. When we were baptized we received new life – God’s life, through the Holy Spirit. Ever since our Baptism, it has been up to us how we live that life in Christ, and what we do with such a wonderful gift!


The Church, as a true mother, tries to guide us and teach us. She also gives us what we need for the journey – the sacraments of Jesus. Principally this sacrament, the Holy Eucharist.


Again, like any child, we are responsible. It’s what we do with such gifts that determine how we grow in Christ.


In the Old Testament reading today there is also a baptism image. The famous text of Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her sucking child? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”


These are the words of God himself! God’s love will never desert us.


And that is what Baptism means. And it’s the ultimate message of today’s Gospel. The lilies of the field tell us that God is always with us. Not always beautifully, sometimes in the ugliness and the struggles – but He is with us.


God never deserts us. That is why we cannot be anxious.


That is what Jesus is telling us in those wonderful words “Consider the lilies of the field.”