After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden. (John 18)
(Flowers outside our office…care of Hope Mission's Women's Centre)
Perhaps you've heard me quote this line from Emily Dickinson before, if so, forgive me. But it's a favorite. She said that the only commandment she was ever able to keep was, "Consider the lilies…".
Now you might think that lily-consideration is child's play and you would be correct. That, I think, is the point. I love that Emily was able to remain child-like. And you know how Jesus felt about children.
Quite possibly, in the particularity and in the essence of this "consider the lilies" commandment, are kept all the others.
In her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, Joan Chittister relays this story:
"There are three stages of spiritual development," a teacher taught. "the carnal, the spiritual, and the divine.
"What is the carnal stage?" the disciple asked.
"That's the stage," the teacher said, "when trees are seen as trees and mountains are seen as mountains."
"And the spiritual?" the disciple asked eagerly.
"That's when we look more deeply into things. Then trees are no longer trees and mountains are no longer mountains," the teacher answered.
"And the Divine?" the disciple asked breathlessly. "Ah," the teacher said with a smile. "That's enlightenment–when the trees become trees again and the mountains become mountains."
The story shows the movement of self from self-consciousness, through a tearing away from the self-as-object, to a true consciousness. That is, it's a movement toward innocence. It's a movement away from the division of sacred and profane. In this "movement" epiphanies are possible every day.
Our temptation will always be to look for and to expect the Divine in the grand things of life, the visually and audibly impressive, the things that bring us to our feet emotionally. But when we follow the movements of Jesus, his welcome of women and children in a culture where only men counted, his days in the desert, his long silent years in Nazareth, we are taught, once again, to invert our deeply held assumptions of worth and value, station and position.
Perhaps our spiritual health is finally dependent on our not forgetting that God is present in the seemingly insignificant, that he hides in the defenseless and in the ordinary. Jesus habitually reminds us that God’s Kingdom is an upside down one.
The idea of God in weak things, in simple things, in waste places, is, well, ignoble. But we know that the real turning point in history, as Fredrick Buechner has said, "wasn't the day the wheel was invented or Rome fell, but the day a boy was born to a couple of Jews."