Those of you who are gardeners may know this very well, but I recently saw a statistic that most plants and flowers freeze when temperatures remain at twenty-eight degrees for five hours or more at a time. That means that one of the sad things about the happy festival of Thanksgiving is that it is rare at Thanksgiving time to see many – or any — flowers out there anymore. But flowers can still tell us a lot about being thankful. In fact, if flowers could talk, what do you think flowers could tell us about thanking God? Our Savior’s words from Matthew 6 can help us think about that:
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
If you were able to have a conversation with some flowers, don’t you think they would say how thankful they were that God gave them such beautiful clothes – such beautiful colors and petals and ways of making people feel a little happier and more at peace just by just looking at them. I read a quote that someone wrote, “Flowers are the magic that God has performed to make this planet look beautiful and to give it a touch of heaven.” Now that is not a statement of God from the Bible, obviously, but many people would likely agree that there is something special about flowers. That is why so many people spend so much time planting them and taking care of them and enjoying them. They are one of the many earthly aspects of life that we can be thankful for – one of the many earthly reasons because of which there is good reason to have a day of Thanksgiving – and to gather in church like this to take the time to give God our thanks. One of our Thanksgiving hymns says it this way: We thank you for your blessings, Almighty Lord, our King; We thank you for the harvests, Yes, Lord, for everything: For flow’rs that bloom in springtime, For rip’ning fruit and grain, For all the precious sunshine, and for the gentle rain.
But life is not all precious sunshine and gentle rain, is it? Jesus here says that not even great and massively wealthy King Solomon of old was dressed as wonderfully as the flowers of the earth, but it is no different for the flowers than it was for King Solomon, or that it will be for any of us. Jesus states the obvious: “The grass of the field… is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire.” Just like life itself, nothing beautiful on this earth lasts forever. Why is that? Why does even an enjoyable thing for many people like planting flowers result in painful backs from bending over to dig and plant, and in insidious weeds that keep needing to be pulled again and again, and in rabbits and deer and other creatures constantly threatening to make at least some of those flowers their daily lunch? The simple answer is the always-simple answer to the evils and problems of life, whether great or small. The simple answer is the sin that is part of this world — and which is also part of your life and mine, including sins in your life and mine such as not really being genuinely thankful for all the earthly blessings God has given us or being greedy for more earthly blessings because we don’t think God has given us enough earthly blessings or focusing too much on earthly things rather than on the God who has given us the earthly things or constantly worrying that God won’t be able to give us enough earthly things to take care of us. If a flower could talk, wouldn’t a flower say, “Why in the world are you talking like that, and why in the world are you worrying like that? Look at me. I’m not worried one bit. Look how God has clothed me! Look at how God has taken care of me! And I don’t even have a soul…”
And that’s where things get different, don’t they? Because we have a soul. Inside us, God has given us that life principle that means we have a specific and personal relationship with the God who made us and that we have a special earthly purpose and a certain eternal future with the God who made us, because the God who made us is also the God who saved us from our sins against him, including the sins of not being as grateful as we should be and of worrying so much about what might be, instead of letting God take care of what will be.
In other words, another thing a flower could say if flowers could talk is that God has done something far greater for you than he has done for me. That’s why Jesus said in verse 33 near the end of our lesson about our connection to our heavenly Father, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Our God above has clothed us with many wonderful things on this earth below, but there can be nothing more wonderful than how he has clothed our heart within. Even though we so often act like the “pagans,” who Jesus here describes as “running after” all these earthly things because that is all they think there is in life to run after, God has still seen fit to clothe our hearts with what Jesus calls his “righteousness.” There is not a single one of us here this evening who can say that we look spiritually beautiful to God the way we are, because we are not like God the way we are. But every single one of us here this evening has received God’s promise that for the sake of Jesus Christ, his Son, God considers us to be wonderfully beautiful, wonderfully perfect, wonderfully righteous – way more beautiful than even the most beautiful flower we can imagine – because he allowed Jesus Christ, his Son, to be filled with the weeds of our sin and to become wilted with the extreme heat and cold of the people’s treatment of him to the point of being uprooted from life and being placed into the grave.
But that death of Jesus is what led our Father in heaven to say, “I forgive you” to each and every one of us. And that perfect life of Jesus, which should never have led to his death, is what led our Father in heaven to say, “Not only do I forgive you for your sins for Jesus’ sake, but for Jesus’ sake I now look at you as if you have never sinned. You have my righteousness. So I now look at you in the same way I look at my Son. I look at you as my holy child – part of my holy family – part of my holy kingdom.” That’s why we have every reason in life to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness because, for the sake of Jesus our Savior, we have so much more than any earthly blessing could give us. And, what is more, our Lord still promises that he will continue to give us earthly blessings. “All these things,” Jesus said, “will be added to you, as well.” The difference is that we don’t have to obsess or worry about them. If God sent Jesus to give us heaven, he will certainly do the far less important thing of taking care of us until we get there – in the way he best determines will keep us on the path that leads there.
Flowers can’t talk, but if flowers could talk, wouldn’t that be what flowers would tell us about thanking God? You and I can talk, so let’s keep joining hearts and hands and voices in thanking God for the wondrous things he has done in taking care of us like he takes care of the flowers of the field so we don’t have to worry about what tomorrow will bring — and in doing so much more for us for Jesus’ sake so we don’t have to worry about what eternity will bring. For Jesus’ sake that’s when everything truly will be sunshine and gentle rain – and beautiful flowers! Amen.