Words for 2nd Sunday after Trinity – 21 June 2020 – Parish of Felixstowe
A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10v29-31)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
It was Sid Steward, Father to ten, Grandfather to sixteen, train driver on the LNER, and sometime All England Champion Trombonist, who taught me the phrase ‘Look after the penny’s and the pounds will look after themselves.’
His chief method in teaching me this was, during the times when I was on holiday with him, to not let me have a single farthing out of his own wallet; even if it meant I could then get out of his hair and buy a ticket for the Saturday matinée at the The Gaumont in March!
He was a lovely old gent really and I miss his wisdom, his practical ways, and his dependence on things being cared for in their own time. A lesson he learnt himself from his hours of toil in the vegetable patch in his back garden.
I never recall having shop bought veg when living with him!
Some would say he was a bit of a penny-pincher. Others that he was frugal. I just knew that he lived up to his surname and was a good steward of all that he had.
In times of crisis some people will rail at God. Proclaiming that God is mean and judgemental, or crass and uncaring. How often have people said, even before this current pandemic, that either God is to blame or that God should protect everyone from disaster. This has slipped into our common parlance and for centuries the Insurance Assessor’s ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ has been the three little words ‘Act of God’.
It could even be said that, like my Grandad, God is a bit of a penny-pincher. Expecting people to cope but leaving them with very little resources. Dispensing advice but then not providing the wherewithal to implement it. This view has grown from an ancient heresy known as Deism[i], which sees God as a distant and remote Creator who will return at an unexpected time and condemn those who have not heeded the teachings of the faith and rescue the faithful.
A God who wants to be in charge but not involved. This is not the God of the Scriptures, who continually engages and makes covenant with the Creation. Nor is it God incarnate whom we meet in Jesus Christ.
Today’s reading shows us that we worship a God who is a penny-pincher but only in the sense that he looks after the small things, and in so doing proves that we do not need to worry when the hard times arrive.
God cares for ha’penny sparrows and numberless stands of hair.
God cares for little things.
God cares for things that others don’t value
God cares for things that no one else even bothers to count.
God cares for us.
We need to hear and live these words as we continue in the journey through this pandemic, which to some may feel as if we are in the middle of a persecution.
We need to proclaim this love and ha’penny care from the rooftops.
We need to remind those around us, and ourselves, that regardless of what society thinks or a virus does, everyone is valuable and cherished.
When God looks after Buy One Get One Free sparrows and numberless strands of hair God is demonstrating love and faithfulness, care and protection, promise and provision.
This ‘Penny-Pinching’ God picks us up with our bundles of fear, failure and unworthiness and tucks us safely away reminding us that we are definitely ’of more value than many sparrows’.
And, after comforting us, sets us down, and says ‘Go and tell others about me.’
How do we do this ‘telling?’ Mostly we ‘tell’ by ‘doing’. We, in our turn, are called to become sparrow protectors and hair numberers. Seeking out the little things, looking after the pennies and turning them into pounds in God’s treasure house.
In today’s global society this is urgent work.
There are far too many undervalued sparrows in our world.
Whole nations are neglected because of the greed of others.
In our own country it is tempting to always follow the loudest voices leaving no space for the quiet plaintive chirp of the neglected ha’penny sparrow people from many backgrounds, with many needs, who deserve much time and care.
We must learn to listen carefully. For it is in the weak cry of the neglected, the undervalued, the victimised, and the discriminated, that we hear an echo of the voice of our Beloved. Through them God cries out to us, a Jesus did long ago on a Galilee shore, ‘Do you love me?’
And if there is one song I want to hear each day it is God asking me to become someone who loves.
When I was made Priest-in-Charge of this Parish I changed the prayer set to be used after the incumbent is installed to The Absorbeat. A prayer of Francis of Assisi that is sweet, intense and overflowing with love.
Perhaps learning to pray this more often may help us to listen more closely to the cries of God’s ha’penny people….?
May the power of your love,
fiery and sweet as honey,
so absorb our hearts
as to withdraw them
from all that is under heaven.
Grant that we may be ready
to die for love of your love,
as you died for love of our love.
[This blog ‘Penny-Pinching God’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]
[i] Not to be confused with the Deists who believe that the existence of God can be deduced from nature alone.