SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
JUNE 30, 2019
Title: “Consider the Lilies”
Text: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:25-34.
There was a grand simplicity about the life of Christ. He lived close to nature and loved it. Anyone who grew up in the country would appreciate the fact that Jesus grew up in the country. Jesus found his parables in the clustering of the vine, the springing of the corn, the rocking of boats on the lake, and the rising and setting of the sun. Jesus found them in the birds that flew overhead, the sheep of the pastures, the fig trees in the grove, and the fowl in the farmyard.
So much of his teaching was in the imagery of pastoral life. I fear that those who lived in the city may miss that sense of the presence of God that people who live close to nature know. What is it about the lilies Christ wants us to consider?
Let us consider this morning the God of the lilies. When we looked at nature, it does reveal God. The psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament
sheweth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Who has not gazed at the starry heavens or looked upon the golden sunset and felt near to God? The order, beauty, perfection, and intelligence we see in nature reminds us of God. God speaks in the regularity of the seasons; the movements of the sun, moon, and the stars; the cycles of night and day; and in the balance between humankind’s consumption of life-giving oxygen and its production by plant life.
No wonder the apostle Paul said, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).
Our generation is fast becoming an urban society. Seventy percent of people now lived in cities. The symbolism of the lilies, sparrows, grasses, and vines may not be as relevant to urban people. Whether we live in the country or in the city, we must live by faith. Let us contrast Paul and Christ. Paul was not at home in the country. It was the city that appealed to Paul. He thrived on its problems, its pageantry, its bustle, and its crowds. But God was no less real to him. The kingdom of heaven was not like a seed to Paul. The kingdom of heaven was like some noble building. When he illustrated things of grace, he did not turn to the vine or the lily. He turned to the soldier polishing his armor, to the gladiator fighting before ten thousand eyes, to the freeborn citizen whose civic charter had been won in the senate of Imperial Rome. Our God is Lord of all. He is the God not only of the lily but also of the city; not only of the shepherd but also of the astronaut; not only of the Stone age but also of the Space Age. Through faith God is real wherever we live.
Let us also consider the growth of the lily. In our text, Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28). What is Jesus saying? He is not saying that the way to grow beautiful, stately, and strong is to be free from all toil and work and tension in life. He is not patting us on the back and saying, “Don’t worry.
Everything will come out all right.” He is not saying that God will step on to correct our follies and omissions. He is not promising a trouble free road. He is not saying to those who trust God that they will never be injured or persecuted. He is not saying that the lilies and the grass will live happily ever after.
Look at the words: “Consider the lilies of the field.” The lilies grow in the valley. Here is a parable of life. We too must grow in the valleys of life. Whether we live in the country or in the city, we have problems, sorrows, troubles, pains, and frustrations. What is God trying to say to us here? God is saying, “Don’t be anxious about life.” The word anxious means “to choke.” If you choke, the food won’t go up or down. How many of us live all choked up by the problems of our daily existence? Five different times in this passage Jesus tells us not to be anxious. Since God provides for the birds and the flowers and the grass, he will take care of his children, for they are made in his image. Through a life of faith, we can link our feebleness with his strength, our temporariness with his eternity, our emptiness with his fullness, our lack of directions with his purpose.
We learned how to grow in the midst of tension. The secret of this growth is found in Christ. The great apostle Paul knew it. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:23, 25-27) how he suffered. He labored many times. He was beaten many times. Paul tells us how he was beaten three times with iron. He was stoned once. He had shipwreck three times. Paul tells us how a day and a night he had been in danger of his own countrymen, robbers, the cities, drowning, of the wilderness, of the sea, of weariness and painfulness. Paul informs us that often he was hungry, thirsty, in cold and nakedness. Yet he knew the strength of God’s grace. People grow in the valleys facing hardship and trials.
Consider the glory of the lilies. The lily is beautiful. Few flowers can compare with its beauty. But the glory of the lily is not in its beauty alone. The glory of the lily is in its
immortality. Solomon in all his glory passed away, but the lily blooms again in each spring. Such is the glory of the Christain life, for God’s people will live forever.
Whether we live in the country or in the city, death is still a reality. You may say that this generation does not care about golden streets and pearly gates. We are not so much afraid of the fires of an eternal judgment. But I say Christ not only offers abundant life here and now, not only is the Christ life the best life and the happiest life, not only does Christ give us a worthy purpose while we are on the earth, but there is more. Paul declares that “Christ… hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
The glory of the Christian life is the glory of immortality. We will live forever, and one day all the injustice and inequality and the mystery of life shall fade away and we shall understand the meaning of it all through Jesus Christ. The God of the lilies is the God of humankind. The glory of the lilies is immortality. This immortality is the glory of our Christian service here on earth. God bless you all.