Refresh Worship Service
Trinity United Methodist Church / Beaumont, Texas
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
“The Flower,” dedicated to Amelia Rose Dishman
Phoebe Hambright Dishman, Lay Speaker
Our text tonight is from the gospel according to Luke: Chapter 12,
verse 27 [New Life Version]
“Think how the flowers grow. They do not work or make cloth.
Yet, I tell you, that King Solomon in all his greatness
was not dressed as well as one of these flowers.”
Jesus the wisdom teacher said, “Think. How. The flowers. Grow.”
Five words to drink deeply.
Sadly, I’m not inclined to take the time. Why?
Because what I’m after is a quick and practical leap to the point.
Accumulate points, and move on.
To what, I’m not clear.
It’s kind of like operating on automatic, half-alive.
Oh how well Jesus knows me!
The point of the teaching is anxiety, the futility thereof.
Quite correct. But wait.
First I must look at something I’d rather not:
Why am I so anxious, so driven?
If roses fretted and flitted about,
with shallow breath and knitted brow,
If roses refused to be still and drink deep,
when would they bloom, and how?
What was that first word?
I believe it was ‘think.’
Think for yourself.
Don’t seize too anxiously the wisdom of a wise person, even Jesus.
Why would you bolt your bread and wine without tasting? Why?
Eat mindfully. Drink deeply.
The wisdom of Jesus needs to be properly savored, not bolted.
If you bolt, you won’t change for the better,
and you may in fact be more anxious,
more dangerous than you were before.
We don’t want that. Too much at stake.
Think how the flowers grow.
So, what do we know about flowers?
Flowers are indeed beautifully dressed.
On the other hand, they don’t last very long.
That’s why when you buy roses at the grocery store,
they come with a little packet to put in the water,
so maybe you’ll get another day or two out of them.
Packet or no packet, roses don’t last very long.
It’s sad to see a rose with its beautiful head down,
to see it wilt, and fade, and shatter.
But it’s okay. If you have eight dollars or ten or twenty
you can go back to the store and buy another dozen.
Think. Not so our loved ones.
‘We blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree; we wither and perish…’
We also know God’s got us. Underneath, the everlasting arms.
But oh it hurts to see the decline.
And when the separation comes? However much we trust God,
to lose our loved one hurts.
It should hurt, it should tear a ragged hole in our hearts.
God grieves, so the prophets say.
When Lazarus dies, Jesus weeps.
When Jerusalem won’t listen, when we kill the inconvenient truth tellers, Jesus weeps.
He cries a mighty cry from the cross: Father, forgive them.
Help them be less anxious, less hurtful, more alive.
Think how the flowers grow. Watch a rose. Observe it carefully.
Just so, people set buds, we bloom, we droop, we die.
But did we ever live?
Think how the flowers grow. Which would you say is beautiful?
The rosebud, the rose unfolding, the full bloom,
the noble head drooping, the petals raining down?
Think about it.
It’s only our grasping for what we were never meant to keep
that makes us insist on the perfection of a rose, or a person,
that makes us angry when the rose or the person lets us down.
I can only be happy if this rose looks as good as it did yesterday.
Or if this person stays with me forever.
Or if that person has a good opinion of me. Or never hurts me.
If I could only get what I want, I could stop being miserable.
I could be happy. Wake up, people! Snap out of it!
Who’s being unreasonable? It’s not God, or anyone else.
It’s me, who changes with the wind,
who’s good enough one day and awful the next.
And yet I demand perfection. Perfection, according to me!
See, that’s the trouble with Jesus, a trouble I’ve learned to love.
He was little inclined to leave us in our trances.
As he said to more than one person:
“Well, you know the law. You’ve observed life.
In this moment, in this situation, how does it seem to you?”
Stop a minute. Think.
I also love that Jesus could be downcast or the life of the party,
and it wasn’t that one is ‘bad’ and one is ‘good’,
it was just the gorgeous play of his mind.
His mind. That’s what we’re trying to get to.
His mind is worth studying every day of our lives. Think.
So, Jesus notices flowers. Good.
For him they were beautiful evidence of God’s creativity,
God’s providence. Beautiful evidence, in themselves.
Flowers were also a teaching tool. Jesus used every single tool he could,
to help us. Because this he knew, for this he came:
how dearly dearly how desperately we need to understand.
We waste way too much energy rushing around trying to fix things we don’t understand. Usually other people.
Sure we need to set boundaries and ask for what we need.
But in our anxiety we make so many unreasonable demands.
Jesus says, stop it. Cease and desist.
Be still, and take the time to understand.
Try to understand that God needs us to grow up,
to figure out how to move closer and closer to the mindset of Christ,
and the only certainty we get to have
is that though we’re protected from nothing, nothing, nothing,
we’re sustained in everything, everything, everything.
We need to grow up and get real.
Only then can we see the true beauty of a flower,
the true beauty of each wild and precious life.
Jesus asked, “Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be happy?” Well, do we? Think about it.
Maybe we’d rather stay anxious and hug our hurts.
At least they’re familiar.
George Herbert was an Englishman, born 1593, died 1633.
Do the math. He was just under forty when he died.
But oh the poems he left us. Listen to this one.
Here’s a guy who’s thought about flowers, thought about himself,
how he might be like a flower,
thought about the miracle of the many times he himself has blossomed, then withered, then blossomed again.
The possibility of new life! Is that not enough?? Is that not enough??
Here’s a guy in love with life as it is, no use for platitudes,
that God is this, God is that.
Forget it! Stop it!
God just is.
God is mystery.
Listen to the poem:
How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are Thy returns! Ev’n as the flow’rs in Spring,
To which, besides their own demean
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring;
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greennesse? It was gone
Quite underground; as flow’rs depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown,
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are Thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickening, bringing down to Hell
And up to Heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
We say amisse
This or that is;
Thy word is all, if we could spell.
O that I once past changing were,
Fast in Thy paradise, where no flower can wither;
Many a Spring I shoot up fair,
Offring at Heav’n, growing and groning thither,
Nor doth my flower
Want a Spring-showre,
My sinnes and I joyning together.
But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if Heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? What pole is not the zone
Where all things burn,
When Thou dost turn,
And the least frown of Thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O, my only Light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom Thy tempests fell all night.
These are Thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flow’rs that glide;
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
By doing his own work, no one else’s,
George Herbert helps us understand.
Helps us see we are but flowers, flowers that glide. Wonderful!
Flowers that glide, poets that relish their versing.
Poets all of us, doing our work, spinning cloth, sewing clothes,
creating beauty, repairing what part of the world we can.
Yes, but comes the temptation:
To be more than a flower.
To be more by getting more.
To swell through store,
to stuff my storehouse,
oh so anxious.
Jesus says, why would you do that?
When you could have heaven?
–watching my Queen of the Night unfolding–
–full bloom, for one precious night–
–drooping in the morning, but oh what a show!–