This painting is called "Consider the lilies" By Stanley Spencer. In it, a robust and jolly-looking Jesus is on his hands and knees staring with loving fascination at the wildflowers and insects that surround him. His cheeks are ruddy as if he is often outside. The scene is English, Jesus looks European, so perhaps this is a place that Stanley Spencer, an English artist, actually knew. But whatever our homeland looks like and whatever we look like, perhaps we can imagine Jesus gazing with pleasure and interest into the flora and fauna that we know best.
This phrase, ‘Consider the lilies’ comes from a section of the sermon on the mount where Jesus addresses money and worry. He spends ages on it as if money and worry might be a problem to disciples then and now! Jesus tells his disciples in five different ways not to be anxious, but he also tells them how they might not be anxious.
We sometimes forget that the teaching of the sermon on the mount is the way Jesus lived. We can also easily overlook how happy a character Jesus is in the gospels. Jesus loves walking outdoors, picnics, wine, storytelling, weddings, dinners, fishing, barbecues on the beach, little kids, chatting with friends, festivals and making life better. Jesus is so attractive in the gospels because he is so happy. So free from anxiety despite the fact that he is being attacked for most of his public ministry. The five different ways Jesus gives to his disciples to help them overcome anxiety with happiness are the things he himself put into practice. They are just as useful today. The key to happiness is to prioritise.
1. Prioritise: in the company of others, to love and trust God in the here and now.
2. Prioritise: by keeping our eyes on God (through corporate worship, Bible reading, prayer and talking openly with fellow followers of Jesus) and beware of our gaze being drawn away from God towards other shiny but ultimately lifeless pursuits.
3. Prioritise: the voice of God in our ears over the shouts of wealth that we need more and more and will never have enough. The voice of God is a still small voice that says, ‘You are my child. I love you. With you, I am well pleased.’ This is enough.
4. Prioritise: being gratefully present in the physical world, in nature, in this moment, in today.
5. Prioritise: God’s way of doing life on earth by loving others and pursuing justice. When we give ourselves to that way of life, called the Kingdom of God, we will find everything else will fall into place, because God knows our needs and loves us.
Read Matthew 6:19-34 to see how Jesus lays this all out. Be happy.