Consider the lilies
“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” – Matthew 6:28-29
I have been considering the lilies of the field lately.
Not the ones Jesus was referring to in the well-known verses above from the Gospel of Matthew: those flowers were probably crown anemones. Anemones are crimson, purple or white wildflowers with black centers that grew in great profusion on the hills around the Sea of Galilee, every spring. Still today, you can see the beauty that Jesus saw if you Google “anemones on Galilee hillsides.”
No, the lilies I’ve been considering are our local summertime favorite: the tiger lily. I grew up seeing these deep orange flowers on long, stately stalks growing in ditches and along roadsides in northern Maryland — they go together in my mind with ripening tomatoes and lightning bugs in great profusion. Unlike the “lilies of the field” in Matthew, tiger lilies, also known as common day lilies (Lilium lancifolium) really are lilies. Apparently they made their way to the U.S. from Belgium in the 1870s. They adapted well to our hot Southern summers, and seem to flourish just about anywhere that’s sunny with good drainage.
Of the humble-but-showy tiger lily, biologist Dan Leopold of the School of Forestry at Syracuse University says, “It won’t thrive in the shade, but in just about any other setting it can tolerate any extreme.” Leopold called the tiger lily “indestructible.” How about that — a strikingly bright wildflower that loves what we have to offer: heat and underloved rural and suburban byways.
Tiger lilies are as common as can be in yards and along the roadside, but have you ever really looked at a tiger lily up close and personal? They’re absolutely stunning: long, sturdy stalks crowned with deep orange flowers. If you peep closer, you’ll see a bright yellow center, wide orange leaves that curl inwards along the edges, each with a vivid yellow stripe down their middle. Slender stamens shed pollen on your hands and clothes (beware, it stains).
I’m just thinking about the wildflowers that Jesus must often have seen around his home in Judea. He noticed things others overlooked – sick and hurting people, little children and common wildflowers. And he saw the beauty and the potential there that no one else saw. Our Lord even compared his native hillside flowers to the raiment of King Solomon, famous for his wisdom, wealth and lavish lifestyle.
Jesus’ words on the lilies are part of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about anxiety. These flowers don’t work or worry and yet look at their beauty, he tells the crowd. If your Father in heaven takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and gives them what they need to flourish, won’t he do the very same for you? Why does God lavish beauty on lowly places with the likes of the tiger lily? Just because.
There is beauty all around, even amid the turmoil of this restless world. Consider those lilies.
REV. SUSIE THOMAS is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.