Isaiah 49:8-16a; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4: 1-5; Matthew 6: 24-34
I wonder how many of us would describe ourselves as being particularly wise. Do you think of yourself as wise? Sure, we might have a lot of leaning. Sure, we might have a lot of knowledge. But do we have a lot of wisdom? Are you an especially wise person?
I wouldn’t describe myself as especially wise. I know a little about a lot, and I know a lot about a little. Just ask me about icons, or bees, or chickens, and I can hold forth for quite some time. I can tell you why chickens don’t lay so many eggs in the winter as they do in the summer. (It has to do with light, and the role light plays in the hormonal cycle of chickens.) I can tell you what bees do in the winter; (they don’t hibernate, rather they cluster and vibrate to keep warm) and how much honey a single bee will produce in her short lifetime (1/12th of a teaspoon! Think of that next time you put a tablespoon of honey in your tea or on your toast). I can tell you how to paint an icon, and what it all means. (That alone can keep me going for a couple of hours as some of you discovered yesterday!). But that’s knowledge. That’s information. That’s not really wisdom. So no, I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly wise.
But when I remember my grandmother, I remember an especially wise woman. I wonder if the same is true for you. Was your grandmother one of the wise women of your life?
One of the great regrets that my grandmother had was that she never went to university. Both her son (my father) and daughter (my aunt) as well as her husband (my grandfather) were university graduates. All nine of her grandchildren have earned at least one university degree (and some two or three). But Grandma never went to university, and she always regretted that. So in the latter days of her life, she filled her spare time with classes. She took poetry classes, and history and drawing classes. She studied history and religion and biology. It seemed that there wasn’t a class that Grandma didn’t want to sign up for and read the entire assigned reading list and then some. Whenever you talked to her she was always just back from, or about to go to, or busy reading for, one of her classes. But none of this made Grandma wise; at least not for me. What made Grandma wise was something she said to me over and over and over again. When I was busy longing for this to be over, or for that to happen, or for this to come, or for that to be past, Grandma would quietly say to me: “Oh, Jamie, don’t wish your life away.” Don’t wish your life away.
In her own way, Grandma was saying the same thing to me that Jesus says to all of us today: don’t wish your life away; consider the lilies of the field. These are wisdom words worth paying attention to.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what
you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than
food, and the body more than clothing? …. So do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for
Several years ago, as I was preparing to enter the monastery, I underwent a psychological exam to discover, as we joke in the community, if I were crazy enough to join. Since I have now been in the community for over 20 years, you can see just how crazy I am! At the end of that exam, I asked the examiner what she could tell me. Her response could not have been truer. She said to me, “James, you have a very active fantasy life.” And that indeed is the case.
I can spend hours and hours reinventing the past, or imaging the future. I can rehearse things over and over again wishing that they had gone differently, or imagining how they might go in the future. I can get caught up in a life of nostalgia or fantasy and miss the life I am living right now.
Perhaps this sounds familiar to you. Perhaps there is something in your life that you truly wish had gone differently: a relationship, a job, a situation. Perhaps there is something in your life coming up that concerns or worries you: a difficult conversation that needs to happen, the results of a medical test, even death. And perhaps like me you hear yourself saying: I wish that were over, I wish that hadn’t happened, I wish things were different. And when I find myself wishing those things, I hear my grandmother saying to me: “Oh Jamie, don’t wish your life away.” Don’t wish your life away.
Both nostalgia and fantasy have their place in a person’s life, but if we spend our time living in, and not learning from the past or worried about and not trying to shape our future then we miss the gift that is today for the past is over and tomorrow will never come. Today is the only day you have to live.
Today is the only day there is to say the words: I love you. Today is the only day there is to hear the words: I am sorry. Today is the only day there is to say the words: I forgive you. Today is the only day there is to live.
If you wish that yesterday you had said to someone, I love you; say it today. If you hope that tomorrow you can say the words, I forgive you; say it today. If you need an occasion to say, I am sorry; say it today. The past is over and we can’t change it. Tomorrow will never come. Today is the only day there is to live.
One of the truths about life the way we live it now, is that we are all too busy. We are all too busy rushing from one thing to the next. And as we rush from here to there and back again, we miss the now: we miss the beauty of the snow, and the glory of the hills, we miss the warmth of an embrace and the delight of a smile. We are too busy to see and taste and touch and feel. We have to move on to the next thing, and the next and the next.
Yet Jesus invites us today to consider the lilies of the field and to learn from and wonder at their beauty. He invites us to look at the birds and to ponder the grass. He invites us to live in the moment, for this moment, this minute, this instant is the only time that it truly ours. And it is only in this instant that we can heal the past and shape the future by living in the present. I love you. I forgive you. I am sorry.
Living in the present isn’t easy. Our minds are too full and our hearts are too heavy, weighing us down on the one hand and distracting us on the other. But there is another way to live. We can listen to my wise grandmother and stop wishing our lives away and live in this moment that God has given us. We can listen to Jesus and learn from him and consider the lilies and look at the birds and ponder the grass and not worry about tomorrow, but rather live in this moment that God has given to us.
And how do we do that? How do we consider the lilies and look at the birds and ponder the grass? By saying a few simple words; I love you; I am sorry; I forgive you. And above all, thank you, thank you, thank you.
My grandmother was a very wise woman, not because she took all those classes, but because she knew something about living in the moment. Like Jesus, she delighted in the lilies, and the birds and the grass. Which is exactly what Jesus is inviting us all to do today.
Consider the lilies, look at the birds, ponder the grass, don’t worry about tomorrow. Instead today tell someone you love them; ask someone to forgive you, say I am sorry and above all say thank you. For in those simple acts, you will find wisdom.
I love you. I am sorry. I forgive you. Thank you.
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