Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Look, Consider, Seek

 The Mount of the Beatitudes, Photo by Rich Simpson 
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 seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.           (Matthew 6:25-33)         

Have you ever tried to tell a worrier (even when that worrier is yourself) not to worry? It really doesn’t work! I think some of us are born to worry and others of us are born to let others do the worrying, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. But to all of us, I think Jesus offers three words in these verses from "The Sermon on the Mount:" look, consider, seek.

Look at the birds. To look at the birds is to see—really see—God’s good creation. To watch an eagle soar or a cardinal feeding at your bird feeder or a flock of geese headed south in formation is to remember that we are a part of that creation, that we are connected to it. We are stewards of it but that doesn’t make us the center of it. Birds (and fish and lions and tigers and bears and cats and dogs) can all remind us of that. 

Consider the flowers. This time of year in New England, one might think, “well, we have to wait on that one.” But maybe not. To consider them right now is to know that already they slumber in the earth. They are ready for winter, for the snows to fly. And then spring will come again as it always does, and the warm earth and April showers will bring new life and new possibilities. Even now, then there is much to ponder. And eventually we will again consider their beauty. I’m married to a person who sees the beauty even in dandelions. I have to confess I’m not quite there, yet. But her attitude is that the difference between a weed and a flower is all in the eye of the beholder. In our natural lawn, "flowers” are not limited to the garden: they pop up all over the place, little reminders of  beauty and of the fragility of life. 

Finally, seek the Kingdom of God. First. That’s important. When we seek God first, then the rest really does fall into place. There’s an old camp object lesson about this. You take a big pot and you pour into it all the little things of your life: the details of soccer and dance and the countless events that fill our days. You pour those in as sand. And then you add in some pebbles: the bigger stuff like family and friendship. Guess what? Already the pot is too full. These things won’t fit—not to mention the largest commitment of all—the rock that is meant to represent God in our lives. 

That simple object lesson reminds us all how easy it is to fill our lives up and have no room left for God. But if you reverse the order, and put the first things first, starting with the big things and then the medium sized ones and then pour the sand in, guess what? It all fits. The small things find enough room. First things first—and all the rest follows.

Look. Consider. Seek. I believe that when we live our lives in that way, we begin to model an alternative way to be in the world. We cannot help but to be more thankful and generous people. And maybe even the worriers among us get some perspective. 

What is tomorrow really about?  God is the big thing—the center—the giver of all good gifts. Family and friends are the next biggest thing, simply being together. Few people enjoy food as much as I do—but here is the thing: if the turkey is overcooked or the cranberry sauce is dropped on the floor or the pies burn, it really is okay. More likely, for those who keep things in the right order, the food will be just fine. But if there is love around the table it really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, I guarantee you that there are tables where the food is perfect—but the people gathered around it can barely stand one another. The food cannot fix any of that. As the Scriptures say, "better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15:17, NIV)

Look, consider and seek. I do think that when we keep these things first, we actually find that we have a whole lot less to worry about. Happy Thanksgiving!

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