In some ways Jesus’ teachings seem very naive. Do not worry? Is he kidding?
Look at the birds of the air, he says. And I think about diminishing habitat, about pesticides and drought. As migratory routes are compromised and water is polluted, birds don’t have the access they once did to forage. They are at the mercy of hundreds of species of predator. Huge numbers die.
Consider the lilies of the field, he says. And I imagine the lilies suffering in the times when the rains don’t come. Their petals wither and hang listless in the burning breeze. Or they are plowed under so that cash crops can be planted: rows upon rows of corn or wheat, potatoes or lettuce – the “valuable” plants.
On the other hand, the bit about not being able through worrying to add even one hour to our span of life certainly rings true. If anything, worry shortens life. The most consistent advice of centenarians across the board is, “worry less.”
But, bottom line, our highly differentiated society does not allow us to just sit back and hope good things will come to us. We have to plan ahead, often for years. For instance, how else except through painstaking study and networking do we secure the right professional opportunities for ourselves or our children?
As I ponder all of this, suddenly, from the depth of my soul, comes a voice rich with amusement and loaded with love. “Laurie,” it says. And, like Mary at the tomb on Easter morning, I all at once see. Jesus is standing right there, masquerading as the gardener. My perspective changes, just like that. Jesus is resurrection. And we are his.
When it comes right down to it, assuming that we can control how our lives turn out is what is naive. Our good fortune is largely the result of luck. We were born and/or raised in a place where there are abundant possibilities for personal freedom and expression. Despite our careful construction of a bountiful life, at any moment the tide could turn and leave us destitute. But we are always, no matter what fate throws at us, part of the kingdom of heaven. We belong to that realm through life and even through death. It is our most fundamental reality.
Jesus is not inviting us into a more effective way of being little, cut-off personalities groping after that which would better our lot in life. Jesus is calling us into the truth of oneness, the realm of God’s love. We truly are all one. And whether we have enough or too little, whether we are ill or healthy, whether our lives are long or short, loaded with promise or desperately empty and filled with pain – “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s possession” (BCP pg. 491).
As Christians we are called before anything else into a common vocation. We are servants of Love. No matter what, in all the circumstances of our lives, we live and move and have our being in Christ. It is in that belonging that we find our true joy, our deepest sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, and a life that is larger than death. It is in that belonging that we are truly secure.
[The image is a detail from an icon Laurie wrote, called “At the Tomb”. The whole icon can be viewed at www.everydaymysteries.com]