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Jun 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 31, 2015 – Luke 12:22-28

Nature Meditations

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?
Consider the the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!” 
Luke 12:22-28

Intro: We are learning skills for our spiritual journey

We are blessed today with a passage that combines two important skills:

  1. Ridding our hearts and minds of anxiety
  2. Meditating on nature

“Worry” is a specific type of thinking (the Greek root suggests a divided thought)
– in Luke 10, it is related to being distracted and bothered (Lk. 10:40-41)
• in the King James Version it is translated “cares” in two places
◦ in Luke 8:14, where cares choke the life out of God’s word
◦ in Luke 21:34, where hearts are weighed down with worries and caught off guard
• anxious thoughts have two distinct characteristics:
◦ they have a negative emotional quality (fear, insecurity, anger, a sense of unpreparedness, etc.)
◦ they become preoccupations – the mind gets stuck on them
– “life” and “body,” as with “food” and “clothing” are merely illustrations
• they represent the millions of things that can become sources of worry
◦ both material and psychological (e.g., “What does this say about me?”)
“And which of you by worry can add a single hour to his life’s span?”
• in other words, anxiety adds nothing of value to everything we have to do or face
◦ worry does not improve anything — its effect is to drain strength, not energize

For the believer, worry is the assumption God is not doing anything
– Jesus says, “Look around at the natural world”
• this is a realm where God is constantly at work
• the logic of Jesus:
If something is true or good in the natural world, how much more is it true of God
(for example, Lk. 11:11-13; 13:15-16; 18:1-8)
– of course the disciples had seen ravens and lilies, but they not made this connection
• it never occurred to them to “consider” or “observe” the natural world to gain wisdom
• yet, it was already there in the Scriptures

The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time,
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Ps. 145:15)

◦ this is the world that is lost to us — not the age of dinosaurs or Greek civilization
◦ but the created world that breathes the life of our Father

I enjoy reading authors who derive great insights by observing nature
– but I often wonder, “Why don’t I see what they see or make the same connections?”
• three answers come to mind:

  1. Much of the lost world is buried under concrete
    • when I moved here, orange trees filled valley along the creek bed
    • now the land is subdivided and covered with homes and streets
  2. Even in nature I am preoccupied with worries that carry my mind elsewhere
    • the pure experience pouring into my senses is blocked from my awareness
  3. Habits my brain has fallen into filters out a lot of information
    • familiar sites get dismissed and disappear
    ◦ if I see a raven, I respond, “Oh, it’s just a bird” or a lily is “just a flower”
    • familiar activities are reduced to routine — anything I can perform mindlessly, I will

Like the disciples, we do not have a good excuse

The Bible shines a positive light on creation — “behold, it was very good” (Ge. 1:31)
– even the thorns and thistles did not erase the goodness
• throughout scripture, creation is responsive to God (e.g., Ps. 148:7-8)
– there are books in the Bible that reveal deep reflection on nature
• Job (especially chapters 38-41), the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon
◦ Job and the Psalms draw wonder from the world, see God’s glory and majesty revealed in it, and ponder humankind’s place in it
◦ the Proverbs gain knowledge and wisdom from God’s creation

Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provisions in the harvest. (Pr. 6:6-7)

◦ the Song of Songs finds metaphors of love in it

In one of the best and most honest commentaries on the Song, Ariel and Chana Bloch observe, “Nature is the mirror of the human lovers.”

• nowhere in scripture is natural world ignored — even the prophets draw inspiration from it
◦ Isaiah could hear doves moaning a sad song
◦ Jeremiah saw Judah’s future in a budding almond tree

What gifts come from meditating on nature?

  1. We learn about how God works in our lives
    The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
    And their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)
    • the next six verses of this psalm continue to extol God’s handiwork in the world
    • then in verse 7 it turns to the “law of the LORD” and the benefits of keeping it
    ◦ so a connection is made between God’s laws in nature and his ordering of our lives
  2. We learn something about God
    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made. (Ro. 1:20)
  3. It carries us into a host of other (deep) thoughts
    O LORD, our Lord,
    How majestic is Your name in all the earth . . .

    When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    The moon and the stars which You have ordained;
    What is man that You take thought of him,
    And the son of man that You care for him? (Ps. 8:1, 3-4)
    • meditate on nature and it soon has us asking, Who am I? How do I fit in?
    ◦ time and eternity questions; life and death issues
    • but you see all of it through a different lens
  4. We glide from immersion in nature into the presence of God
    • Job 38:1, “Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind”
    ◦ Jesus’ baptism(!), when he was immersed in “nature” and emerged into God’s presence
    • we discover coexistence of the material and the spiritual
    Simone Weil, “Among other unions of contrasts found in beauty there is that of the instantaneous and the eternal.”
    • on the temple walls, there were carved figures of “cherubim, palm trees and open flowers” (1 Ki. 6:35) — the supernatural (e.g., angels) side by side with the natural (trees, flowers)
    ◦ in the natural world, “Everything is a door” — and meditation opens it to us
    ◦ if nature brings us to God, no wonder God sometimes brings us back to nature (Ge. 15:5; Is. 40:12-26)

How do we open our hands to receive these gifts?

Go outside — and, when possible, bring something in from outside

Bring awareness to every sense, one at a time
– sight: look close up – and look for something in particular

A few years ago, Brian McLaren notified me that he was coming to California, was hoping to spend a couple of days together and, if possible, see a live rattlesnake in the wild. I had lived in Twenty-nine Palms for over a year, spent many hours in the Joshua Tree National Monument (and have logged many more hours there since moving away), and during that time I saw scorpions and tarantulas, but never a rattlesnake. But I took Brian out there anyway, and while kicking around in the monument for the first time ever we came across a chuckwalla (I think) that was almost a foot long. I pointed it out to Brian and in an instant he gripped it and was studying it enthusiastically. The next day we came across a fox, which was another form of desert animal life I had not seen there before. And by day’s end, Brian saw (and handled) his rattlesnake. We saw all of that, because we were looking

Annie Dillard affirmed, “The lover can see, and the knowledgeable”

– what do we look for?

Simone Weil: “Beauty captivates the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul.”
“The beautiful is that which we can contemplate . . .  something on which we can fix our attention.”
“In everything which gives us the pure authentic feeling of beauty there really is the presence of God.”


Annie Dillard, “… even on the perfectly ordinary and clearly visible level, creation carries on with an intricacy unfathomable and apparently uncalled for.  . . . There are, for instance, two hundred twenty-eight separate and distinct muscles in the head of an ordinary caterpillar.”

grandeur, violence, surprise, danger, silliness, etc.
– then, after looking, listen, then smell, then touch and perhaps taste

Annie Dillard, “We’ve been on earth all these years and we still don’t know for certain why birds sing.
“Today I watched and heard a wren, a sparrow, and the mockingbird singing. My brain started to trill why why why, what is the meaning meaning meaning? It’s not that they know something we don’t; we know much more than they do, and surely they don’t even know why they sing. … The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?”

Alternate between analytical and reflective meditation
– now the scientist, now the artist; now the philosopher, now the poet; now the reporter, now the storyteller; now the researcher, now the lover

Simone Weil, “The world is a text with several meanings, and we pass from one meaning to another by a process of work.”

Relax into nature as much patience as possible
– and, as Elmer Fudd has taught us, “Be vewee, vewee qui-yet” (and sit very still)

Simone Weil, “The attitude of looking and waiting is the attitude which corresponds with the beautiful.”

David Steindl-Rast, “Leisure is a virtue, not a luxury. Leisure is the virtue of those who take their time in order to give each task as much time as it deserves to take.”

Share your experience

While walking Kona one day along the Salt Creek trail to the ocean, we passed a man and woman who were staring up the hillside. I followed their gaze to a shaded area where a deer was chewing some scrub as she looked down at us. I shared our discovery a few minutes earlier, which was a road runner that crossed the path in front of us. Then the three of us went on to other sightings–the hawk perched on a short fence post that let us get within ten feet before it flew away–, the snakes, and the bobcat.

– “Did you see that?!” is frequently heard in the wild
• the joy of seeing dolphins just beyond the breakers  or a whale spout is increased when pointing out these phenomena to others

Praise and thanksgiving for creation is as natural as nature itself

Conc: Barb and I were watching the news a couple of nights ago

At one point, they footage of a whale breaching just off the coast
– it looked as if it were no further from the camera than a few feet
• at the end of the story, the credited the video to our own Captain Dave, whose Dolphin Safaris sail out of the Dana Point Marina
• Dave Anderson once told me how this enterprise began
◦ he was not planning on starting a business — he enjoyed watching dolphins and wanted to film them
◦ so he tightly wrapped an ordinary video camera in clear plastic and attached it to the end of a broom stick handle
◦ the rest is history

Meditating on nature can do us a world of good
– we are likely to rediscover a forgotten ability to experience wonder
• and rehabilitate an atrophied mental muscle
– at the very least, we will no longer need to hear the negative command, “Do not worry”
• because our hearts and minds will be synchronized to the positive command of love

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