Monday, May 26, 2008

Eggs in the Hand

Matthew 6: 25-34

There was once a monk in Ireland named Kevin. He lived in the mountains south of Dublin, at a place called Glendalough.

There's a story about Kevin. When you see pictures of Kevin, saint's icons and such, sometimes has a bird, or eggs, or both in his hand. It seems, the story goes, that Kevin could pray for long periods of time. Once, when he was seven years old, praying in the orans position (hands up in the air to his side about shoulder high) on the first day of Lent, he was there so long that a blackbird built a nest and laid eggs in it!

Kevin understood that God has created all things, and that man's dominion over nature meant that he was responsible to protect all things, was therefore stuck. He couldn't get the nest out of his hand without crushing it, he couldn't risk cracking the eggs, so, there he stood, one hand in the air, exactly like a tree, for the six weeks it took for the eggs to hatch. He was fed berries and nuts by the blackbird during that time.

Now you may believe that this story about Kevin is a little embellished, you may believe that stories of the saints are usually not reliable. In a 21st century sense of journalistic reporting and truth along concrete, tangible lines, it's probably not the way it happened.

But stories like this get at greater truths than mere proof can provide. Sometimes nonfiction can't tell the truth well enough, and that's why you need story. And this story about Kevin is about a lot of things. Our place in nature as human beings? yes. A metaphor of spiritual growth that happens in Lent? Yes. But what's more important for us today is the trust in God that God will take care of us.

Kevin knew, loved, and trusted in a God that would take care of him. If the lilies of the field aren't worried about how they will be clothed, he knew that he would be taken care of, too, as he did this thing for these birds. As he took this job on, the bird would be feeding him; just as he is putting on the persona of Christ in supporting the new life in those eggs, so the blackbird was acting like Christ in feeding Kevin what he needed while he was doing the work of God.

That is no less true for the rest of us. If we are doing the work of God, we receive enough to continue. We don't receive necessarily what we want, but then again, our wants are notoriously at odds with what is needed. We need food to survive. We don't need a double cheeseburger, fries and a shake (and folks, I am not telling you anything that I don't need to hear, too!)

God will take care of us. I hear, time and time again, that people don't believe that, and time and time again, it's usually because whoever it was that says that had an idea of what was needed, and it was usually different that what was truly necessary. I'm sure that Kevin, during those six weeks, wouldn't have minded an occasional bit of meat, or some ale, or some fresh bread with butter. But he could survive, and indeed thrive on what the blackbird brought him--berries and nuts.

So can we. God has a different idea about what we think we need than we do. We worry too much, and that is what Jesus is telling us in today's passage. Why do we worry about so much? It is good to have good fresh food, clean clothes, solid warm shelter. It is good to be able to make provision for your family should you die. It is prudent, I think, for a nation to have a group of people who are trained for it's defense, a group such as who we honor civilly tomorrow with a day off.

But prudent, for us, seems to go by the wayside so often. Prudent provision becomes excess so fast! Good simple food, what we need, becomes delicately cooked, exquisitely prepared cuisine, worthy of its own TV network, which is what we want. Clean and adequate clothing that protects us from sunburn, bug bites, snow and rain and the elements becomes Abercrombie and Fitch, Brooks Brothers and Chanel. A nice solid house, well insulated, good roof, becomes 30 rooms, 7 bathrooms, swimming pool and 30 walk in closets to handle all the clothes, toys, tools and book we have.

Simple plans to pay for things so your family isn't thrown out on the street, what we need, become plans and policies so complicated that they would make puzzle masters throw their hands up in frustration. A group of people organized for our common defense, what we need, becomes tools that are used to gather more than our share of resources, the defenders of a way of life that is itself outsized and out of proportion to what we need.

God knows our needs. God designed us, and knows our engineering specs. And we need much less than we take.

You've perhaps heard about the "simplicity" movement--the attempt by people to make their lives less complicated. It has already been co-opted and complicated by the culture, (there's even more than one magazine with simplicity as it's subject, each available to you for a yearly subscription), but it was a secular attempt to make our lives a little closer to what this passage means. We worry far too much about what we want, and forget that we need much less. Those noted prophets of the 20th century, the Rolling Stones, say it this way;
you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.

All we really need is to trust God. Birds, grass and lilies seem to get that. If we're so much better than they are, so much higher on God's list, why can't we seem to get that?
Do not worry about tomorrow, Jesus says. Tomorrow will bring it's own worries. Be in today. Have joy for what you have, enjoy and acknowledge the person who is right in front of you, right now. Here's a line from a pop song, this one from Sheryl Crow: It's not getting what you want, it's wanting what you've got!

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