Growing with God
July 23, 2017
Rev. Fritz Nelson – First Presbyterian, Columbiana
Text: Matthew 6:25-34
Daylilies form the backbone of the large flower garden by my driveway. I’ve always loved daylilies. As a kid I would pick the wild ones along the roadside for my mother. As a gardener I appreciate the incredible diversity and beauty of their flowers, how their dense leaves block out weeds and that they’ll grow almost anywhere with almost no care. Literally you can plant them and then forget about them. They’re the ultimate no worry plant. As beautiful as Solomon in all his glory with no human effort required.
How different is that from how we live our lives. I don’t know about you, but I worry – constantly. I worry about myself. Do my clothes set the right look? Did I say the right thing? Do the right thing? Does so and so still like me? Will I have enough money? Is this bump cancer? Will the huge truck trying to get around the traffic circle run me over?
I worry about others. Will my son be okay? My wife, my friend, my family? I worry about this church. I worry about you guys; about our country; about total strangers.
I hear Jesus tell his disciples not to worry and I take comfort. I hear Jesus tell his disciples not to worry and I laugh and shake my head. I’m human, therefore I worry. In some ways my worries serve me well. I worry so I buckle my seatbelt, buy insurance and save money for retirement. My worries also connect me to people. They are a way of caring, a way of loving. But my worries can also imprison me. They can separate me from my God, from my neighbor, from the fulfillment and freedom brought through Christ.
“Do not worry,” Jesus tells us. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the ultimate life God’s promised, and all these things will be given unto you.”
Jesus instructs us not to worry as part of his larger Sermon on the Mount. Along with telling us not to worry, he reminds us how, in God’s world, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled and those who are poor in spirit will be blessed.
He also instructs us to ask God for our basic needs – “give us this day our daily bread” … “deliver us from the evil one” … “If your child asks for bread, will you give a stone? Or if your child asks for a fish, will you give a snake? If you who are filled with sin know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.
And he commands us to be generous in spirit and with our money. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves steal.” … “No one can serve two masters, you cannot serve God and wealth” … “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” … “If you hear these words of mine and act upon them, you will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”
Daylilies are so easy to grow its tempting to think they can grow anywhere. But leave a daylily root in a paper bag in the garage it will simply rot away. (Trust me, I’ve done that.) They also won’t grow on concrete, in dense shade, in the desert or in the arctic. They need water and soil with worms in it. They need sun. They need bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. They need a person or squirrel to bury the root. God doesn’t just inject each lily with super duper divine growth serum. Each lily exists within a sustaining system of provision – a diverse and sustaining ecosystem if you want to get scientific. In turn daylilies provide food to a wide array of animals. Rabbits love the early shoots and deer love the mature leaves. Voles eat the roots and the flower buds can be used in stir fries and salads. Supposedly eating daylily buds battered and deep-fried is a culinary delight rarely forgotten.
God could, if God wanted, create and sustain a daylily so that it could grow alone, isolated, on the barren concrete of a sidewalk. Instead God designed the lily to live and prosper in a system of communal give and take – sustained by the ecosystem around it and, in turn, sustaining others.
Likewise God has the power to directly intervene in our lives to save us and sustain us – and at times he does. Don’t worry, Jesus says. Just ask. Ask for your daily bread. Manna can and does come from heaven. Ask for God’s kingdom to come. Healing can and does come directly through prayer. Ask for rescue from the evil one. Enemies and barriers can and do miraculously fall away. As the hymn says, God’s eye is on the sparrow and we know he watches us.
Yet like the daylily we truly thrive when we’re part of a community, of God’s holy ecosystem. We needn’t worry because God has called our sisters and brothers in Christ to walk with us, sustain us and support us. Our neighbors needn’t worry because God has called us to walk with them, sustaining and supporting them through lives trials.
If our neighbor is hungry and we have food we feed them, because we haven’t built any storehouses, so whatever we have must be distributed to all.
If our neighbor is in poverty we support them, because we serve our God – and share our God’s concern for our neighbor – instead of our bank account.
If our neighbor is unable to compete in the “rat race” we still honor them, because we treat our neighbor as we ourselves would be treated.
As children of God called into community with each other, we’re part of a holy ecosystem. A ecosystem sustaining us and freeing us from worry. An ecosystem that, through us, sustains others, freeing our neighbor from worry. An ecosystem freeing us to strive first for the kingdom of God and sustains us in ways beyond which we cannot imagine.