Psalm 84:5-12, Matthew 6:24-34
October 28, 2018
If you don’t know it, I “borrowed” this sermon title from the 1963 film “Lilies of the Field,” starring (anybody?) Sidney Poitier. Anybody remember the film? It’s the story of a black man, played by Poitier, who comes to a small convent – I forget how – and the nuns there convince him to “build us a shapel.” (“Build us a chapel.”) Later, there’s the famous line, “Sisters, I done laid my last brick!” Do you remember any of this? He also taught them how to sing “A-men, A-men…” Because the nuns had always pronounced it “Ah-men.” (Which is actually closer to the Greek pronunciation in the New Testament! “Ah-main.”)
That’s about all I remember. Except that doI remember five of us kids watching it, all in one bed, in the Hotel LaBelle, in Montreal Canada, in 1967. Our family and another family went there for “Expo 67.” Do you remember that? I don’t remember where our parents were at the time, but they had just driven 500 miles with 5 kids in two cars! So I’m guessing they were just sleeping!
But I did borrow that title. Because I’m pretty sure the title of the film itselfwas borrowed from this passage in Matthew. I’m sure it came right from these words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “And why are you anxious about clothing?” he said. “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 arrayed like one of these!” (Matthew 6:28-30)
As I told you last week, this is the part that Jesus was leading up to. This is his great statement about worry and anxiety. “Which of you, by being anxious,” he asked, “can add one cubit to his span of life?” As you know, we’re learning these days that anxiety and stress can actually take away“cubits” from our span of life! Maybe we should consider the lilies of the field more often! Maybe we should consider the birds of the air. “They neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns.” Jesus said. “And yet your heavenly father feeds them!” (Matthew 6:25)
How much dowe worry about such things? How much of the anxiety of our world is centered around the things of our world? And how do we notworry? It’s not easy, is it! As you keep hearing me say, the things of the world and the need for them are all around us! We are inundated by them! And it’s easy to become preoccupied with them. And it’s easy to say, “I know I shouldn’t be worried, but this is important.” or “I’ll try to be less worried about this… later.” “But not right now.”
This takes practice. It takes us changing our thinking. It means taking a breath, and trying to compare the importance of our earthly needs with the things of God’s kingdom. And that isexactlywhat Jesus is doing here! He is helping us to get “perspective” on earthly problems. “In the moment,” they seem very real, and very big, don’t they!? But compare the things of earth and the things of heaven!!
Now, having said, that, “some there are” who would use this passage as an excuse to do nothing. (Or some version of that.) They would divorce themselves entirelyfrom the things of this earth. “God will provide! I don’t actually have to doanything!” “I don’t have to work onmy relationship with God. (Or my relationship with anyone else, for that matter!) It will just grow.” “I don’t have to ask to be given.” “I don’t have to seek to find.” “I don’t have to knock for the door to be open.” “I can just do the minimum of faith, and my faith will prosper.” “I can just pray, and wait for God to act.”
“Though waiting for the Lord” is a good thing! It’s a Biblical thing! But Biblically it does notmean inaction. It means taking time in God’s presence, being silent, seeking God’s voice. But it doesn’t mean that’s it! In fact, as Isaiah used the word, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up like wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary…” They shall be renewed for the tasks of life! That’s what Isaiah is saying!!
And I think Jesus would agree. Because Jesus is notsaying in this passage that we should not toil, spin, sow, reap, or gather into barns! He’s saying not to be anxiousabout it! We should do all those things, but at the same time, learn to trust God more, to trust him both to providefor us and to prosperus. And I’ve been thinking lately about those two words. “Provide” and “prosper.” “Provide” means God gives us something directly. “Prosper” means God blesses and multiplies our efforts. We need to know that he does both. We can and do receive his blessings, but we can’t forget making the effort. Because God can and does prosper our efforts!
Now, let’s be clear about this. This is not a matter of “God helps those who help themselves.” – a statement that is not actually inthe Bible! But that statement gets quoted anyway, and it’s sometimes used to mean that God doesn’t do anything until we act. Or that it’s all up to us, and we don’t getanything unless we “put in the effort.” (What bothers me is that it’s almost like God isn’t in the picture at all!) This is about being engaged in God’s kingdom and God’s work. And in that relationship with him, he blesses us and multiplies us!
Jesus is asking us to have that perspective. He tells us to start with the kingdom. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Then all these things will be added unto you.” As I said, it isn’t that God doesn’t want us to have “things.” It’s that he doesn’t want us to be focused on them, to be preoccupied with them, to be anxious and worried about them. “For where your treasure is,” Jesus said, “there will your (what?) – there will your heartbe also.” As I said last week, that’s what led up to this! It’s about what we treasure! It’s the verb!
And so, it’s now Stewardship time. Although our Stewardship committee would tell us that it’s always Stewardship time. But this is that special time when we consider our part in God’s kingdom. And we allhave a part in the kingdom. As I said a few weeks ago, church isn’t something we come to because somebody else has made it “happen.” Church is what we have because we allmake it happen!!
As we consider our part, let’s think about Jesus’ words. Let’s ask ourselves, what are we treasuring? What are we valuing? Are we focusing on God’s kingdom? It’s way to easy to forget about God’s kingdom! It’s way to easy to let the cares of this world make us forget about God’s kingdom. And when we forget God’s kingdom, when we forget God’s glory, the less glory we see! I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s true!
Well, as we think about Stewardship, let me state the positive side of that. I would also say – simplistically – that if we look to the glory of God, the more glory we’ll see! And I believe that’s what God wants for each of us! He wants for us to know his Glory! He wants us to ask and be given, to see and to find, to knock and have the door opened to us. He wants us to seek first, his kingdom. And to know that all the other things will be taken care of – in his way. And if they’re not taken care of in ourway, he will be there to see us through it.
And so, “Consider the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” And… “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you!!”
Eternal God, help us to look to your kingdom first. Help us to step aside from the things of the world and to see the things of heaven. Help us to know your blessings, and to know you are prospering our work. Help us to seek and to know more of your glory, as we give you glory! For we pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.