Neither the Old Testament reading nor the Gospel reading are in the Lectionary today, yet the reason I would like to talk on them is because this is where I am this week
I was fascinated the other day watching “Ghost ships of the Arctic” on television.
The programme was about the recent expeditions to find the remains of the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which were a part of the polar expedition led by Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin in 1845-6.
The fleet set sail from Greenhithe, near Dartford on the Thames Estuary on the morning of 19th May 1845, with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men to find the elusive “Northwest Passage” in the Canadian Arctic.
Somewhere on route they picked up three further sailors
Unfortunately, when they got up to the North West Passage winter set in quickly and the ships were marooned in the ice.
The crew decided to try and reach civilisation across the ice, sadly resulting in the death of all 129 men including Franklin himself.
Three of Franklin’s crew were buried at a place called Beechey Head and I was particularly intrigued by the grave marker on one of the graves, that of John Hartnell that read from Haggai 1:7:
“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, consider your ways" Haggai 1.7.
This extremely strange grave marker made me think why did Sir John Franklin put that on Hartnell’s grave marker?
Was it to warn his crew to get their lives in order before God as Franklin, who was a strong Evangelical Christian, could see the demise of the expedition by this time?
Or, was it a reflection on John Hartnell’s way of life – as sailors in those days were renowned for their coarse language and rough living but as I started to think about it, I started applying it to myself.
With these thoughts tumbling through my mind, I was rummaging through my library when I came across the book by Dale Carnegie called “How to stop worrying and start living” and I picked it up and started to read it.
In it, Carnegie tells the story of a committed Christian Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine in Oxford University, who as a young man had taken to heart Thomas Carlyle’s words that he had read in the spring of 1871.
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
It was the maxim by which Osler decided to live the rest of his life.
In 1913, forty two years later, Osler was invited to give a lecture at Yale University to the medical students.
He started his talk by telling them that, although he had been a professor at four universities, he was a man of “the most mediocre character”
His success was built in living in “day tight compartments” and he went on to urge the students at Yale to begin each day by applying Christ’s prayer “Give us our daily bread”.
Tellingly, this is what Carnegie had to say about the phrase:
“Remember that that prayer asks only for today’s bread.
It doesn’t complain about the stale bread we had to eat yesterday
And it doesn’t say: “O God, it has been pretty dry out in the wheat belt recently and we may have another drought – and then how will I get bread to eat next fall – or suppose I lose my job –oh God how could I get bread then?”
No this prayer teaches us to ask for today’s bread only. Today’s bread is the only kind of bread you can eat.
Carnegie went on to say:
“Years ago, a penniless philosopher was wandering through a stony country where the people had a hard time making a living.
One day a crowd gathered around him, and he gave what is probably the most quoted speech ever delivered anywhere at any time.
This speech contains 26 words that have gone ringing down the centuries.
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof “
The passage he refers to is that of Matthew 6:34 from the King James Bible (the Authorised Bible) – a more modern translation of which is:
“ “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
That does not mean that we should not make any plans for tomorrow.
Martin Luther is reported to have said:
If Christ was going to return to earth tomorrow, I’d still plant an apple tree.
Of course we need to take out insurances for our houses and cars, and put money aside for old age but the key is do not have any ANXIETY for tomorrow.
Maddy has a wonderful phrase that she applies to me – “Why pray when you can worry” because I tend to worry a lot.
However worrying is incompatible with my Christian faith.
After all as a Christian I have put my life in God’s hands
As Dale Carnegie summed it up. “By all means take thought for tomorrow, yes careful thought and planning and preparation but have no anxiety.”
Although Carnegie first published his book in 1948, it is still relevant in 2017.
When we hear of the terror attacks in London and Manchester, and with the dreadful fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington be full on the BBC news, we can be tempted to sink into a mire of dismay and worry.
But if we are prepared to trust God for each step of our daily life – there is no need to worry about the future.
Plan by all means but don’t worry
Maddy would like to thank everyone for the cards and prayers and best wishes they have sent her while she has recently been in hospital.