Thanksgiving: Consider The Lilies Of The Field
(It will be advantageous to show power points of the pictures of wild flowers and birds.)
Consider the lilies of the field.
Jesus, our Lord and Master, was so eloquent in his expressions. So memorable in his mastery of words. His expressions have been grafted into our hearts and minds. We can hear and feel his words about " the lilies of the field.”
The Greek word for “consider” means “to look carefully at” or “closely examine.”
The Greek word for “lilies” means “wild flowers.”
King Solomon in all is glorious finery, never wore clothes as beautiful as the wild flowers, the wild lilies of Israel.
Jesus also said. “Look at the birds of the air. They neither sew nor reap nor gather into barns but your heavenly Father takes care of them. Are you not more valuable than them?”
Wild flowers of the field. Flying birds of the air.
Can you see them? Can you feel them? Can you taste their beauty?
Can the Living God teach you and me lessons about life when we carefully examine at the wild lilies of the field and closely watch the flying birds of the air?
To begin this Thanksgiving sermon, I would like to examine some pictures of wild flowers from the land of Israel.
As you know, I am a student of the Internet and go looking for all sorts of information. I went searching for pictures of wild flowers from the Mid East and the land of Israel. Bingo. I found an article by Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir, who is the head scientist at the Jerusalem University Botanical Gardens. His article was entitled “Wild Allium Species in Israel.”
From this article, I discovered that Biblical lilies such as referred to in the gospel text for today are part of Genus Allium. Genus Allium. There are 250 species of this variety of wild lily. These 250 species are located in the Middle East, from Israel to Turkey to Iran.
Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir says that “Alliums are characterized by a tall, erect inflorescence; umbrella-like, all of the flower stalks emerge from one point.”
The wild lilies or wild flowers of Israel do not look like what we think are lilies.
Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir goes onto say that there are no less than 39 different wild alliums species grow in and around Israel.
Now, I would like to show you pictures of some of the 39 different species of this flower from the family of wild lilies in the land of Israel.
As we look at these pictures of wild lilies, we need to imagine Jesus picking one of these flowers and carefully and slowly examining intricate beauty, slowly twisting the flower in his fingers and relishing the moment of beauty.
Jesus said, “Look carefully at the wild lilies. See its long stem. Its white petals. How lovely. How delicate. Can you feel its stem in your fingers? Can you smell its fragrance as you bring it up to your nose?
Look at the next species of wild lilies in Israel.
We recall that this species of flower called alliums are “characterized by a tall, erect inflorescence. They are umbrella-like, with all of the flower stalks emerging from one point.”
We can imagine Jesus picking a single stem of a wild lily and saying, “Look carefully at this particular wild flower of the field.”
Are you too busy to look carefully at the wild lilies of the field?
Are you too caught up in your hurried and harried life so that your heart is no longer captured by the beauty and intricacies of wild flowers?
Are there lessons about life that the Lord God wants to teach you and me when we look closely at wild flowers?
What are lessons about life what we learn when we pause for a moment and study the texture, the detail, the repeated symmetry in the wild lily below?
Notice the next species of alliums. Its color. Its incandescence. The varieties of shades of purple.
Do you think that King Solomon and all the richest people of the world throughout human history were ever more beautifully dressed as this this lovely, magical flower?
Is there any coat, jacket or piece of clothing more delicate, graceful, and lovely than this flower with its lavender petals and green centers?
Why do we worry so much about clothing and what we will wear? Doesn’t the Living God clothe the flowers in splendor? Will not the Living God, our Heavenly Father, also care for us?
The gospel lesson for today emphasizes that God is our Heavenly Father who lovingly cares for us as a faithful gardener lovingly cares for his/her plants in the family garden.
Jesus also said, “Look at the birds of the air. They neither sew nor toil nor gather into barns, but you heavenly Father takes care of them? Are you not more valuable than the sparrows?”
Ravens and sparrows. They were the birds of the air in ancient Israel. We would suspect that Jesus watched them all the time.
Jesus had other similar teachings about sparrows.
From Matthew 10: 29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
I repeat Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid, for you are more valuable than sparrows.”
With these words, I began to look on the Internet for birds that are common to Israel, the birds that Jesus was thinking about when he spoke these memorable words. I looked for pictures of sparrows and ravens.
The most common bird of Israel is the lowly sparrow.
Do you notice the sparrows at your house? Jesus did. Jesus learned lessons from the sparrows. Jesus knew that the Living God our Heavenly Father took care of the sparrows and would also care for us.
Jesus would have seen sparrows like this.
Consider the sparrows of the air. Look carefully at God’s lowly sparrows around you. Do you have time to do that? Are you too busy to stop and see? Are there lessons that the Living God, our Heavenly Father, wants to teach us about life when we carefully watch the lowly sparrows that were sold for a mere penny in ancient Israel?
Do you think that the Living God, our Heavenly Father, cares for this sparrow?
Do you think that the Living God, our Heavenly Father, cares for this sparrow?
If God cares for the lowly sparrows of the earth which were not worth more than a penny in ancient Jewish society, will not the Living God also care for you and me?
Futher, Jesus talked about ravens. In the Gospel of Luke’s version of this gospel text, Jesus said, “Look at the ravens.”
The following are pictures of ravens from Biblical Israel.
What lessons can you learn from the Living God, our Heavenly Father, as you slow down your life to look at the ravens and the blackbirds around us. It is true. The Living God, our Heavenly Father, takes great care of the ravens.
The ravens neither toil nor work but God takes care of their essential needs. Won’t the Living God, our Heavenly Father, take care of our essential needs?
Then why do we worry so much? About money. About food. About clothing. What is wrong with us human beings that we don’t trust the Living God, our Heavenly Father, who cares for the birds of the air and the wild lilies of the field? If the living God cares for the birds and lilies, won’t our Heavenly Father also care for us?
The gospel lesson for today about the birds of the air and the wildflowers of the field is really about anxiety and worry. The word, “anxious,” appears six times in our gospel lesson.
Jesus asks you and me several questions. Please answer the questions that Jesus was asking in this gospel text: , “Can you add a single hour to the length of your life by worrying about it?” …._____”No.”
Jesus asks you and me, “Does God, our heavenly Father, take care of the birds of the air? ….._____ “Yes.”
Jesus asks you and me, “Does God, our heavenly Father, take care of the wild flowers in the mountains?” ….._____ “Yes.”
Jesus asks you and me, “Is life more than food and clothing?” ….____ “Yes.”
Jesus then concluded: If God cares for you, why worry so much?
Jesus taught each one of us three words that we all need to know and memorize. Jesus simply said, , “Do not worry.” That’s it. “Do not worry.”
But we Americans worry plenty. In a recent survey reported in Reuters, via MSNBC, 90% of the respondents said that they were worried how well prepared they were for retirement. 90% were worried about being sufficiently prepared for retirement.
Jesus wants us to grow past our worries. Why are we not to worry? Because God is not a distant deistic God who could care less about our personal and individual lives. Rather, God is our loving Heavenly Father.
A key line in the gospel text for today is this: YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER know that you need food, water and clothing. The Lord God, the Living God, is identified as OUR HEAVENLY FATHER who knows that we need the essentials of life.
And then we hear Jesus’ glorious teaching: Strive first for the kingdom of God in your life, for God to rule your life, and then all these things shall be given you. This verse is the key that unlocks this gospel text: Do NOT strive first for food, water and clothing. Do NOT strive first for the material essentials of life. Rather strive first to walk in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ. Strive first to walk in right relationships with God, other people, nature and yourself. Strive first to live a life that is ruled by God, and the ways and values of God. THEN, all of these material NECESSITIES of food, water, clothing and shelter, shall be given to you. It is rather basic, is it not?
Today is Thanksgiving. Tonight is our Thanksgiving Service. Tonight, we celebrate the generosity of God, our heavenly Father, on blessing our American land with prosperity and material abundance. Thank you, Jesus, for this good land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
As we close this sermon for tonight, I would like you to see some pictures that I took of mountain wild flowers this summer while on the shoulders of Mount Rainier. Please remember that none of these flowers are found in the gardens near our homes which need watering, fertilizing, and dedicated care by a fastidious gardener. Rather all the following images of flowers are from the mountains where their only caregiver is God.
The title of the following pictures is God the Mountain Gardener. The Lord God had no help from other human beings in his gardening of these mountain flowers.
I am going to ask you a simple question and I need your answer to be yes or no. Here we go. You can only answer yes or no to the following questions.
Did God, the Mountain Gardener, create and care for these Indian paintbrushes, and will God care for them in the future? ______
Did God, the Mountain Gardener, create and care for these blue lupine and will God care for them in the future? _______
Did God, the Mountain Gardener, create and care for these flowering heather and will God care for them in the future? __________
Did God, the Mountain Gardener, create and care for these lacy fireweed and will God care for them in the future? _______
Did God, the Mountain Gardener, create and care for these yellow daisies and will God care for them in the future? _______
Did God, the Mountain Gardener create and care for these mountain ash and will God care for them in the future? ___________
Did God, the Mountain Gardener, create and care for these mountain white spireas and will God care for them in the future? ________
Will God, our Heavenly Father, who created us in the first place and has sustained us all these years, will God care for us in our future? ________
(Examine a Lenten sermon based on this text: Worry .)
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