Monday, February 28, 2011

"Where No One Has Been"

Matthew 6: 24-34
Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

Our text from Matthew this morning will be a familiar one when you hear it.  Imagine Jesus in the upper Galilee where sunflowers bend over to reveal their dark brown centers and golden petals.  They are silhouetted against a brilliant turquoise, sort of a ‘virgin Mary’ blue sky.  There are hundreds of wildflowers in bloom also, as is the case in that part of the Middle East.   Imagine he and his disciples and hundreds of other people sitting on a grassy mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee; a calm not stormy sea, with a fishing boat or two out in the middle. 

And he begins to talk.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Matt 5:3)  Jesus has begun his sermon up there on the mountain side.  He continues his discourse interpreting and reinterpreting Judaic law.  He makes it plain and simple for folk.  “You are the salt of the earth”, (Matt 5:13), “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14), “Give to everyone who begs from you”, (Matt 5:42), “Love your enemies”, (Matt 5:44), “Pray like this…Our Father in Heaven”, (Matt 6:9).  That’s an awful lot of responsibility that he’s heaped on people.  He lets them know in no uncertain terms what it will be like, what it will take to be Christ-followers.

Then he says, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth or mammon as the King James Version says”, (Matt 6:24).  You can just imagine how that might have landed on these poor, peasant people, right?  But then again if you are rich you worry about your investments, and if you are poor you worry about where your next dime will come from so anyone can get caught up in the struggle choosing between God and wealth.  Anyone can become a slave to the almighty shekel!  Then Jesus says, “THEREFORE” and you know you are in for something when he says, ‘therefore’.

Here now the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, the 6th chapter….

‘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.

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I dabble in botanical watercolor.  What I love about it is that you have to really ‘get intimate’ with your floral
specimen.  If I were water coloring a lily I would have to ‘consider’, to look closely at the flower and all of
its parts.  How do the sepals, those pre blossom leaves and the petals relate?  How long are the stamens in
relation to the carpel?  Where is my light source and how does it interplay with the glorious color of the lily? 

Then, after the plant parts are identified and drawn I examine the color.  A petal is just never, red, or orange or magenta.  Oh no!  There are varying shades of pink all in one petal and sometimes you find a spring green running through one of its veins.  And don’t be surprised if you find a reddish brown or rust color tipping the edges of the leaves or sliding down the stem.  Lilies and all flowers are nothing short of a grand and glorious miracle of God.  When God created, God done good here! 

But you have to be a very quick painter if you want to use your specimen while it’s fresh.  And quick painting just doesn’t happen with watercolor.  You layer wash upon wash of color letting it dray in between and each day the flower wilts just a little.  The flower head droops and the light is not hitting it at the same angle.  So a botanical watercolorist must photograph her flower so she can see exactly what she saw the very first day otherwise the painting will be compromised.  Flowers wilt, petals drop, and eventually it dies altogether.

But that day on the mountain Jesus looked around.  He saw and perhaps picked a wildflower or a lily that was growing.  He admires the vast beauty of the lily, and the way in which God created and cares so deeply for a lily that will live only for a few days.  He tells the people around him not to worry.  Do not fret.  Don’t sweat!  Chillax.  Take a chill pill and relax.

If God can make sure that those little sparrows are fed, and that which grows so naturally in the field is as beautifully clothed as the lilies, or sunflowers, then don’t you think that your God in heaven knows what you need to live your life? 

Of course God knows what we need.  God created us, remember? 

But God also knows that there is plenty that we worry about, even to the point of excess. And rightly so!  For who among us today can honestly say that there isn’t a worry on our mind?  Or that there isn’t something that is taking up way to much residence in your heart, or that there isn’t some serious concern that keeps you awake at night or anxiety that wakes you up in the morning?   We all, especially in today’s economy and world disasters have been given much to worry about.

Jesus does not turn a blind eye to his followers concerns and worries.  He embraces them, that’s what we see in his life and in his work and his ministry.    He works with hungry people, the street people and people who are in dire need of healing.  He has compassion for the well-to-do who have much to lose.  He knows all too well the human condition and the capacity for excessive worry. 

He understands that worry to the extreme can render you completely helpless.  He also knows that when worry is your life then you are relying and living out of fear more than trust in God.  For the opposite of worry is trust.

I understand that your congregation is at a crossroads.  For some it might be a relief, and for some it might be bittersweet, and for others it might be sad or scary.  I don’t know details, nor do I want to.  But as past interim pastor I’ve learned that there is anxiety and worry, concern and even fear about this interim period and what the future will bring for a congregation. 

When you begin to see anxiety seep into the crevices of the sanctuary, remember the final verse of today’s scripture.  So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  There is plenty to deal with today without bringing into play the anxieties of tomorrow.  If we let our anxieties about tomorrow invade our moments of today we will be missing out on so much goodness and grace.

I once heard it said, ‘Tomorrow is a place where no one has been’.  How true is that?  Not me, not you, nor anyone around us, not the psychic, or the soothsayer or ‘Great Aunt Ella’ who has premonitions, nor economic indicators or weather forecasters have yet stepped foot into tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a place where no one has been. And that’s a real good thing.  Because then we begin anew to write a different page in the diary of life.   Each day is a new beginning not rooted in fear, but based upon resurrection. 

Living into the resurrection made so abundantly clear through Jesus Christ enables us to figure out today first before going to this place where no one has been.  Resurrection brings hope for tomorrow because God cares.  God cares deeply.  God cares about the migratory birds that fly over Israel and the flowers that dot the hillside.  God will guide you and calm your fears and set before you a path to traverse.  But that’s tomorrow.  Let’s enjoy this day.

Rev. Suzanne Wagner


Bar20 Hoppy said...

Great! Me.

Jan said...

Beautifully said!!! Thanks and love ya!

Suzanne said...

Thank you!