Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
12. Sept 2010
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
“Consider the Lilies”
+ IN NOMINE JESU +
The text for our meditation this week is the Holy Gospel according to the evangelist St. Matthew, especially these words: “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 arrayed as one of these” (Matthew 6:29). Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you created all things as reflections of your eternal beauty. Govern and preserve us so that we remain in your image in this life and into the life to come. In the name of your Son Jesus, who redeemed all creation, Amen.
Dear Christians, you may have noticed that today’s text sounded very familiar to the text from a month ago. On the weekend of August 8th, I preached on the parallel text from St. Luke. Each Sunday, our readings are prescribed by one of two sets of readings. These assigned readings are called pericopes and they collectively known as the lectionary. The first set of readings (or lectionary) follow a one-year cycle. These are readings assigned to and preached by the ancient church. They remained the traditional readings in the Lutheran church through The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941. The first hymnal of the Missouri Synod to prescribe an alternate set of readings was Lutheran Worship of 1982. It’s preferred set follows a three-year cycle drawn from the liturgical reforms of the Roman Catholic church as part of Vatican II. Our current hymnal Lutheran Service Book provides both as options. As your steward of the mysteries of God in this place, I found it appropriate that we use the one-year lectionary. It offers the good teaching exercise of repetition, 1600+ years of preaching resources, and far easier hymn and music planning for pastor and musicians.
The readings prescribed for each Sunday are not commanded by Scripture. They are a matter of Christian freedom. It is not within our freedom to read from texts that are not Holy Scripture. Nor am I allowed to preach from anything other than the Word of God. Yet, despite the lack of precise command, it is laudable for the church to follow a regular and orderly calendar of feast days, holidays, and appropriate readings. Thus, the church rightly observes the seasons and festivals of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. Advent always features the texts which prepare the way for Christ. Christmas always features the birth narrative from St. Luke. Epiphany always features the visit of the Magi and the Baptism of Christ. Lent is always a time of sober reflection of our nature as sinners and the passion of Christ. Easter always features the glorious resurrection of our Lord from the grave and our redemption by Him. So also through Pentecost, we hear of the tongues of fire and the apostolic witness. Regardless of which lectionary (or set of readings) is observed by the church, the festival season remains the same.
The summer months represent the Time of the Church, when the church sits at the feet of Christ, hearing His Word, learning His way, and rejoicing in His salvation given and shed for the church. With the three-year lectionary, this is called the season of Pentecost. With the one-year lectionary, this is called the season of Trinity. Regardless of its name, the themes are the same.
Thus, today we have the Gospel reading for Trinity 15 (one-year) is similar to the text from Pentecost 10 (three-year), only offset by four weeks. This was an unintentional coincidence. Yet, while it may seem to be unnecessarily repetitive, dear Christian, let us once again meditate this parallel text from St. Matthew chapter six:
“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 arrayed as one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:29-30)
Dear Christians, we are like the flowers of the field. We are like the wildflowers, the poppy, the gladiolus, the daisy. To the world, no one plants us, no one tends to us. Life is only the result of the desire of a man and woman. Or perhaps life is only the unintended consequence of a pleasant act. To the world, this is a happy chance, a fortunate circumstance of evolution. To the world, our beauty is not designed or given but a random act of nature.
The raising of the children is the job of the village. The current trends and opinions are programmed through the schools and the media. All people, young and old, are trained to work. All toil and labor to get a job, to get ahead, and to get what they want. Along the way, we have earn joys and wealth, delighting in the finer things of life. We might as well eat, drink, and be merry. It’s all vanity anyhow, since we all die. Then, by natural selection, death weeds out the sick, the poor, and the infirm. Then, by some strange events, the whole thing starts over.
Dear Christian, this is how the world understands our life. This is not the truth. We are like the lilies. God has planted us in his field. He knitted us together in our mother’s womb, germinating us for some nine months, to sprout forth into the world. Even with the desire of our mother and father, only God blesses marriage with fertility and children. He even blesses those who have not yet been joined through rite and ceremony but who have joined in the marital bed with children. The conception of children is not the work of man any more than it is the work of the flower. Just as the lilies bring forth lilies so also man begets children. It is not the circumstance of nature but it is the act of God for the preservation of the world. Family and children are beautiful because they are given by God in His very image. They are adorned better than Solomon to the glory of God. They are the wildflowers of God’s field.
The motive and means for the raising of these children are also given by God. Their education is given by the God the Father their earthly father. The motivation to educate children is to train them in the way of salvation, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Lord’s Word is not very concerned about math and science, literature and physical education. God’s way is to teach children to strive to enter through the narrow gate. He desires foremost that we teach them in the way they should go so that they do not depart from it. The arts and sciences, the leisure and work of the people is important, but it pales in comparison the knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Why is this? Because the world is worried about the temporary and fleeting things. What we will wear, what will eat, what we will do for work are all vanity. They will come today and be gone tomorrow when our Lord comes to judge the living and the dead. Dear Christians, we are the lilies. God sends sun and rain, moon and sleep as we need. God surely sends these things without our asking, just as he gives us our very life without our asking.
Unlike the lily which simply is, we are blessed with knowledge and will. We can chose to recognize the good giver or live in rejection of the sustaining hand of God. We ought to know and recognize that everything we have is a gift of the bountiful providence of God. We can only learn this by the instruction of our heavenly Father. He teaches us all things profitable through His Holy Word preached in the sanctuary and taught by the head of the household. This Sunday we especially rejoice in the gift of faithful teachers who assist our heavenly Father in training the children in the way of peace. This Sunday marks the new beginning of the Sunday School here at Grace.
In Sunday School, our children learn not only of God’s good gifts but they especially learn of the one thing needful. Children of God are much like the lilies of the field, whom God clothes with beauty and life. Then again, children of God are even greater than the lily. The flower of the field is alive today and tomorrow will die and be burned in the oven. Isaiah says “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:6b-8)
How much more though has God clothed His children! How much more has he given us, his flowers adorned with the eternal Word. We have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-26)
God has not left us to wither and fade. God has blessed with the promise of life after death. Our flesh may wither and decay but will be reborn, resurrected, and remade in the life to come. The flower dies and returns to the earth, never to be seen again.
The Psalmist says: “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:15-18)
Dear Christians, we are the greater flower, the one which dies but rises again. Every little precious flower of God, adopted as his children, will be recreated on the last day. Even though our sin kills our flesh, God’s mercy will cause new life to spring forth. We who are grafted in the root of Jesse, the vine that is Christ will once again have life in the garden of paradise. Our Lord spoke thus through his prophet Hosea. On the last day, God’s Israel, his holy church, will be restored. We, his wild lilies, will sit under His boughs. We will take on his scent and grow like only He can.
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, And his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; They shall be revived like grain, And grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:4-7)
This is the one thing needful. This is one thing every child need to know and is the aim of our Sunday School. Every person who desires to be saved from being thrown into the oven like the lilies needs to know the knowledge of salvation. This is the death of the Son of God for you the sinner. He withered and faded for you. His flesh saw the grave, but He rose again, all glorious in splendor and majesty. He sits at the right hand of God where he rules over all. So too, you will die like the lily. Yet, you of faith are greater than the lilies. God has adorned you with faith that is not anxious for the things of this earth nor for your very life. God has blessed you the promise of eternal life. Live today like the lily but rise tomorrow like no lily can. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind steadfast in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +