Consider the Orchid
Text: Luke 12:22-34
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Imagine that you’re throwing a party. Maybe it’s a picnic or a family reunion, a block party, anything really. You need to have plenty of food, drink, sides, and desserts, so you ask someone you trust—maybe it’s a neighbor who you know is a great cook, or a friend or family member who you’ve relied on before—you ask them to bring something. They say they will. Now, in this situation, would you lose sleep wondering if they’ll actually bring it? Or would you call someone else to tell them to bring the same thing, just in case this trusted person doesn’t do what they’ve said they would, what they have done for you countless times before?
Of course you wouldn’t. You’d take them at their word and trust that they’d bring something. And yet, we do that very thing with the Lord. He provides us daily bread. We have countless examples of Him doing and providing everything needed in the lives of believers before us, in the examples of the saints, and in our own lives. And yet when some new need or want comes along, we’re anxious. Maybe God won’t come through. Maybe He won’t actually fulfill His promises this time. Maybe now He’s expecting us to do the heavy lifting, providing for all of our own wants and needs.
So we worry. We fret and stress. We shoulder it all ourselves, or at least we try to. That’s what worry is—it’s a prayer to no one, it’s setting our requests at an empty altar, acting as if there no one hear or care when we express our needs, our fears, our hopes, our wants. It gnaws at faith, one bite at a time. In short, it’s little faith, as Jesus calls it today in our Gospel reading.
That’s why Jesus calls us away from such worry, away from the empty altar of nothing that we’ve been muttering our worries before. Jesus said to His disciples, and us, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on…Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!…Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” Jesus reminds us of God’s continued and superabundant care, even for the smallest of His creations.
I was struck by this when I was hiking in the backcountry recently. A little off the trail, I saw a wild orchid, far away from any garden, or any civilization for that matter, away from human eyes. It was brilliant orange, with deep red specks, opening to a yellow starburst pattern deep in the flower. If I hadn’t seen that blossom, it’s possible that no human ever would have. It was stunning. It struck me—God created the perfect conditions for this delicate orchid to grow and stand beautiful in the middle of the rugged forest, for however brief it grew. How He mut have cared for that single flower to arrange it so. And then it struck me—how much God must care for me, to bring everything together so that I saw that bloom in the woods so far from my usual paths I walk, bringing beauty to my own eyes.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And if your heavenly Father is going to give you the kingdom, how much more will He give you anything and everything else. He’ll give you everything that comes with the kingdom, everything that comes with His gracious rule over your life. Food, clothing, shelter, peace, hope, love, joy—everything.
This is when our fallen nature—ever a doubter—will start to raise some so-called “practical” objections. Yes, that’s all well and good Jesus, we start to think to ourselves, but you were talking to simple people in a simpler time. They didn’t have the kinds of needs we have now. They didn’t have the kind of economy we have now. They didn’t have the kind of government, or neighbors, or responsibilities, or cultural pressures, or stresses, or deficits, or problems that we have now. We believe that we’re so different than any other people who have ever lived that we might be in some kind of loophole in God’s care. Maybe He’ll expect us to take care of ourselves—after all, that’s what we hear from the world: look out for #1, survival of the fittest. Maybe we’ll have to pick up the slack ourselves, or show God that we’re worthy of His care, pry open His hands in order to find the good things He’s currently keeping from us.
But before we think we might have discovered a gap in God’s promises, consider Abraham. In our Old Testament reading today, God tells old Abram, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be.” The Lord tells him this just after Abram has told God that he’s childless, with no heir. Now Abram could have raised any number of “practical” objections when the Lord told him he would be the father of nations, with as many descendants as the stars. He could have pointed out his age, or his wife’s age, or that she was barren, or that they were wanderers without a homeland. He could have mentioned the danger they lived in or the uncertainty of what the next day would bring with their nomadic lifestyle. But no, Abram does none of these things. Rather, Scripture tells us, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
None of our objections or worries have ever stood in God’s way. This is the God who gave a son to Abraham and Sarah, who then had children in turn, who then had children, until they numbered as many as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky—descendants of blood and of faith, among which we are glad to be numbered. This is the God who, out of those descendants, chose a young woman, a virgin, to have the impossible happen: to conceive and give birth to the Son of God. This is the God who became man, Jesus, to share all our weaknesses, to bear our sins, to walk alongside us and suffer all that we’ve suffered, all the lack, all the uncertainty, all the oppression and danger and temptation. This is the God who died on the cross in order to overcome all those things, to win forgiveness and unity with God the Father forever. This is the immortal God, who did the impossible, and died.
But even death wouldn’t stand in His way. And as we all know, death is a very practical concern and objection, as it ends up separating everyone eventually. But not God. He defeats death, along with sin and hell and lack and all that threatened us, so that He will be with us forever, to provide for us. He opens the door to our own resurrection through His resurrection, so that even death, which used to seem so final, even death isn’t an objection that we can raise anymore. It’s no loophole to His perfect care.
Do you really think that the God who overcame all that will let little things like food or clothes or money or a mortgage or a job come between you and Him? Your eternal life, given to you here as a gift, is so much more than these things.
Your God will provide, in this life and the next. It may not always be the way the world tells you it should be. It may not always look like it does on TV or in novels. It definitely won’t be in the way that the tempter whispers it should be. But it will always be enough. It will always be daily bread. It will always be eternal life. Fear not, little flock, for your Father rejoices to give you His kingdom and all that comes with it. Hear His promise, rest in it, and be at peace. In the name of Jesus, who provides all our wants of body and soul. Amen.