Thursday, January 22, 2009

01/18 - Fatherly Nurture and Observations in the Laboratory of Life

Matthew 7:1-12

Jesus seemed to be talking in a stream-of-consciousness mode.

In the space of a few minutes, he talked about worrying, judging, fixing other people, God’s fatherly care, and treating others like ourselves (note that chapter and verse divisions were added much later). On the surface, these seem to be a randomly assembled chain of teachings. However, there may be an underlying thread of logic holding them together.

Judging and fixing others and worrying tend to be human preoccupations that interfere with the quality of life Jesus envisioned for his listeners, a life full of zest and busy with things of the kingdom of God.

All three preoccupations run counter to the thinking of God. He thinks worry is useless because He takes care of all that is necessary. He thinks He is more capable than any of us at judging and fixing people, actions which are His sole prerogative.

Jesus gave a two-part solution for our worrying, judging, and fixing preoccupations. One part is learning to trust God to handle our needs.

When children feel insecure about the parental figures in their lives, they tend to worry or to mistreat other children. Similarly, adults tend to worry or to judge and fix others when they feel insecure about the care of God, the heavenly Father.

Jesus first knew about the power of fatherly love from his good and decent stepfather, Joseph. He also know about it from observing seriously flawed fathers in the village where he had lived and worked, men who still took good care of their children’s needs.

Jesus wanted us to know God as the best, doting father, waiting to spoil us. Knowing such love calms our inner fears and reduces our tendency to worry, judge, and fix.

A second part of the solution is learning how to treat other people like we want to be treated.

Jesus knew the hurts and dreams of humans because he had studied his own human experience like a scientist observing an experiment in a laboratory, and from the knowledge he gained, he figured out how to treat other people. He invited each of us to join him in the laboratory, each to study our own human experience, and from the knowledge gained, to learn how to treat other people.

Jesus had a grand plan for a grand life for each of us. He intended that nothing get in the way of that life.

Monday, January 19, 2009

01/17 - Reading Theology in Birds and Flowers

Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus thought it was glorious to be a human, and he lived life with zest. He wanted the same for his listeners.

He understood life was fragile and dangerous. When he said “Each day has enough trouble of its own,” perhaps he thought back to troubles in the lives of Mary and Joseph, such as those around the time he was born, or troubles in his life, such as his recent time in the wilderness.

Jesus knew a person could lose life in quality as well as quantity. He was especially concerned about how worrying corroded away the quality of life, and worrying about things God already took care of seemed extremely senseless to him.

Jesus drove his point home with two wonderful lessons drawn from nature. The birds fly and sing, providing us great enjoyment, yet they do not worry about food. Also, the flowers of the field are clothed in magnificent beauty, but they die and dry out and are gathered with the straw used to coax the fire to life. If God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, Jesus said, He will certainly take care of us.

Obviously, his zest for life included a great appreciation for the beauty of nature. As a youngster, he and his friends probably played in the fields around the village, wondering at what they saw. We can image them lying on their backs on a hillside studying the clouds. Even as an adult, when he had a few free moments, he went on walks through the countryside, admiring the flowers and trees and watching the birds and other animals.

Jesus' zest for life included more than just appreciation for nature. As he contemplated nature, he saw great truths about God revealed. It was as if he read nature like a theologian reads a scholarly book.

When we live the fulfilled life Jesus wanted for us, instead of worrying about necessities of life, we will act and think like him, including looking out for the things of his spiritual kingdom. With his kind of zest for life, perhaps we too will be able to read some theology from the birds and the flowers.