Dr. Norman Nagel
St. Matthew 6:25-34
Pentecost 20 – 10-14-1985
Concordia Seminary Chapel
“Do not keep company with a dancing girl, or you may be caught by her tricks. Do not let let you mind dwell on a maiden, or you may be trapped in her penalties.”
“Let your mind dwell,” is in the Septuagint, katamanthano, which our Lord bids us do with the lilies of the field. What comes from such attentive looking, has, as we have observed, consequences. The consequence of the attentive looking that our Lord bids us do, is that we learn of the lilies how to grow.
But which of the lilies are to teach us? Not the strumpet-trumpet lily. Not the bold canalily, that has something of the dancing girl about it, in the way it thrusts itself at you.
Jesus speaks of the lilies of the field, scattered in extravagant profusion. Little flowers, so many, that in the crowd of them, at first glance, they all look alike. Jesus, as is His way, draws our eyes to just one of them. “Let your eyes dwell on this one. More is given by this one little flower, than by Solomon in all his glory.”
Solomon’s glory is not reproached. The queen of Sheba spoke true and faithfully, “Blest be the Lord your God Who has delighted in you.” Solomon is acclaimed as one given to, bountifully, by the Lord. And she joins in the Lord’s delight-in-giving with her yet more gifts. Solomon’s glory is all “gift from the Lord.”
But he sinned. He contradicted that it was all gift from the Lord. He supposed that it belonged to him for his own glory to use as he pleased. His heart turned away from the Lord. And there was great anxiety.
Not so the lily. The lily lives as it lives only from God’s hand. And so it grows. No other trust or confidence and so no anxiety.
The lily has no anxiety, for it does not live as if God were not on the scene, as if God did not care to give it life and growth.
There is no Romantic nature mysticism here, no pretty pantheism of some bulletin covers; no Wordsworthian pathos:
To me the meanest flower that blows
can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Wordsworth attended only to the flower. Attending only to nature, we can only end in tears. The lily that speaks to us, is the little flower in the hand of Jesus. And we have only received its message, when we are given what it tells of Him.
One of a dozen children playing in the streets of Nazareth, larking about, indistinguishable from all the rest.
Little Jesus wast Thou shy once
and just as small as I?
In His Incarnation He lived the truth that no hair, no sparrow falls, without the Father. The grass of the fields which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven. And Jesus too, in solidarity with the lot of all creatures. What all creatures bear, He bore more. The weight of all was upon His shoulders. He was thrown into the oven.
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
There is Calvary and there is Easter. His—and yours! Yours, given you in Baptism. A newness of life, from Him, with Him, and so, no more living as if He did not die and rise again for you. And so, no more anxiety.
Those who choose to, remain alone—isolated items having to look out for themselves as if the Lord were not there, not caring, or not caring well enough so that some alternatives have to be devised to fill in for His failures: idols, other gods, that last only as long as we can keep them going. Endless anxiety.
Jesus calls us out of anxiety to grow as the little lily grows, with no final confidence, but in God. Thirty fold, sixty fold, an hundred fold. The little flower in the hand of Jesus.
Did He pluck it? It was His. Then its life was spent—telling of Him! Was ever flower more beautiful?
You too! How much more you, than the grass of the fields and the birds of the air, O men of little faith?
Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. Amen.