March 2016

He Saw Ravens Fly and Considered Lilies Growing

During Lent we are looking at the things Jesus said and saw after “he set his face toward Jerusalem.” There is a new urgency in his messages from that point, as both he and the disciples know the imminent danger. I compare the charged atmosphere to Dr. Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” (available on YouTube). And one of those messages that becomes more electrified is the one in Luke 12: “Do not worry about your life… watch the ravens in the air… consider the lilies in the field… seek first the kingdom of God.” The same words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) come across as measured practical wisdom. In Luke 12 they are urgent because Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. Someone once described Pausch’s lecture as ”our fate sped up.” I would describe Jesus’s words in Luke 12 like that. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “I/you don’t have forever to get this right: do not worry… watch the ravens… consider the lilies… seek first God’s kingdom.”

I estimate that on any given Wednesday night at our meal for the community that we call Manna, anywhere from five to ten truly homeless persons are present. They live in tents under bridges or in their cars or on park benches. I have studied Luke 12 (“do not worry… consider the ravens… consider the lilies… seek first the kingdom”) in the original Greek language, with the help of astute biblical scholars, and through the lens of great theologians, but the homeless persons who come to Manna have made Jesus’ words come alive. They are living them out, some by fate and some by choice

You may recall that winter started late this year; we had the air conditioner on for the Christmas Eve service. It didn’t start to get cold until mid January, but as the weather turned I began to worry about these persons I have come to know by name. After dinner as they take up their backpacks and go out into the dark bitter cold night, how will they make it? I told you about Lucky’s rule of thumb; when it’s 20 degrees or below he goes to the YMCA, but 20+ he’s good outdoors. I’m sure Lucky was outdoors last night (it was “up” to the low thirties); others were in their cars parked in inconspicuous places, or huddled in tents. For all their sakes I want Spring to hurry back!

Both those homeless by fate and those homeless by preference share a common faith: there is a limitless supply from which their needs can and will be met. They believe, “the good Lord will provide.” God will provide in steady acts of kindness by others like our Manna meal. God will work in the hearts of the “powers that be” (landlords, government agencies, officers) to do right by them. And God will provide a never failing stream of daily mercies, things that arrive just in the nick of time.

I want to believe like that. I must believe like that or my life will deteriorate into a spirit of anxiety from which flow acts of desperate clinging. There are helpful reminders along the way: ravens… lilies… Lucky… and Jesus who sets his face toward Jerusalem and does not look back.

Pastor Lew

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