320 E College Street, Iowa City, Iowa 52240 Sunday Worship, 7:45am, 9:00am, 11:00am


Choral Evensong


Ben WEbbPreacher: Rev. Benjamin S. Webb

Ecclesiastes 42:1-12, 27-32; Ps 17, 28, 29; Mt 6:24-34a

Years ago when I worked in the Iowa Legislature, I served the standing committee on Agriculture whose chairperson at the time was Wendell Pellett, a farmer from Atlantic, Iowa.  Wendell told me that every morning back home as he headed to the door and the fields beyond, his wife would always kiss him and say, “Now Wendell, remember to smell the roses.”

Don’t forget to smell the roses.  Don’t sleep walk through this life and miss out on the best it has to offer.  Notice the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.  Stop along the way, and really consider them.  Don’t pass by, but look carefully.  Learn lessons from them every day.

Today is Rogation Sunday, when we’re especially mindful of this good earth and the gift of good land, and when we pray for those who tend and work the land for us.  While the fields are still too wet for that, it won’t be long before the planting begins.

Meanwhile, as I gaze out our kitchen windows of late, I see the waiting farm fields beyond, the spring flush of new grass that borders them, and the light green in the treetops as they begin to leaf out.  All around the house are beds of cheerful daffodils and tulips and brightly blooming forsythia, and everywhere in town there is bursting crabapple!  Before long there will be lilac bushes with white and purple blooms, pink honeysuckle blooming, and apple trees with their showy white blossoms.  It’s a lot to drink in.  This world is beautiful, and we’re apt to miss it as we go about our daily rounds preoccupied with our worries and our thousand chores, our big ideas and ambitions, our daily lives filled with the toil of getting and spending.

There’s a sweet British series called “The Darling Buds of May,” about a very loving farm family.  They’re an odd bunch in ways, but they have sweet feelings for each other.  Every episode finds them enjoying eating their meals both in and outdoors, and without fail they always see some fresh evidence of beauty in their world around them, so they immediately stop whatever they’re doing, gaze at it together, and say “Perfect!”  Simply perfect!

So it’s good to make cuttings of the daffodils for the vase on the table, good to gaze up through the flowery canopy of the crabapple framed in blue sky, and bury our noses in the lilacs as we pass. It’s good to stop whatever we are doing, even for just a moment, and take it all in, to just breathe it deeply and gratefully and feel something like real weight lifting from our shoulders.

What is there not to love about this sweet world, this beckoning season of Spring in Iowa, all these darling buds of May?  Consider then, really consider, the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air.  They neither toil nor worry, yet look how God has gloriously arrayed them.  We so need these moments to moderate all our ambition and our striving and the anxiety it produces.

Experiences like these always call us back to who we really are, to what really matters, and to the living God at work through all created things, which we are otherwise in serious danger of neglecting in our all too human and self-absorbed world, where we worry ourselves about trifles all day long.

The theme of WORRYING is mentioned six times in this passage and seems to be the root of the problem that Jesus wants to lift from our souls.  Worrying seems to be no respecter of class.  No matter how much money, wealth or possessions we have or don’t have, we seem always to be worried about whether we have enough and how to get casino online more.

The word “worry” or “anxiety” here actually translates a Greek term having the meaning of “split attention” or “divided concern.”  The problem of our double vision or divided concern, split between two masters, is at the center of Jesus’ teaching.

So we hear Jesus first warning his disciples not to serve two masters, then teaching them not to be overly anxious about material goods, and finally calling his disciples to live their lives in the present moment – to smell the flowers – rather than being preoccupied with tomorrow’s imagined problems and worries.

Makes sense!  Too much energy spent on getting and spending dries up the springs of gratitude, closes the door of hospitality to strangers, refuses to open the purse before human need, trusts money rather than God with one’s future, and learns too late the destructive force of greed’s demands on marriage, family, community, and creation.

It’s not that our basic need for material things is evil in itself.  God knows we have needs and will supply them, as the Webbs have discovered again recently with our own housing needs, now resolved.  The solution, as we really all know so well, lies in putting more of our trust in our Creator to supply our needs.  After all, if God so beautifully arrays the birds of the air and flowers of the field and provides for them, how much more will God care for us.

So “worry,” on the one hand, is interpreted as being a slave who tries to serve two masters (when only one can truly be loved and obeyed).  On the other hand, “worry” is interpreted as a preoccupation with the future.  Divided first in our loyalties and then also preoccupied with tomorrow, we lose the gift of noticing what is given today, and very likely the gift of tomorrow when it becomes today.

But living in the present, smelling the roses, and really considering the lilies of the field and birds of the air, is the antidote to much of our worried and harried lives.  It moves us to something larger, moves us to gratitude, moves us beyond anxiety towards trust in God.

We’re reminded that God knows our real needs and all these things will be given to us, if we only seek God first and trust our Maker’s ability to array us as beautifully as the graceful birds and lovely, lovely flowers.

I remember a song that Sarah and I used to sing in harmony to our young daughters many nights as they were falling asleep:  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God/ and his righteousness/ and all these things shall be added unto you/ allelu alleluia/ Alleluia (4 times).”  I don’t know how, but it happens.  Just learn to trust God more.  Try not to worry.  Keep smelling the flowers.  All shall be well.  AMEN

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