You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
So Britain has decided that it no longer wishes to be part of Europe. What does that mean for us as a country? Indeed what does it mean for Europe? The answer is that no-one knows. This was after all a vote against something not a vote for. The global financial markets reacted violently with a millions wiped off some of the leading shares – a “blue chip” company in which I have an interest lost 20% of its value overnight, for example. Politicians are now trying to tell everyone that all will be well but no-one can be certain of that. No doubt there will be considerable resentment when people find that they will not get what they thought they had voted for. No one could lay out plans saying this is what will happen if you vote to leave Europe since we will still have to negotiate with the EU with regard to trade agreements, immigration, grants we have received from Europe and a whole lot more. So there is, and will be for a long time to come, considerable uncertainty which is never a good thing.
That said the sun rose in the east on Friday morning and in the evening set in the west as it has done for millennia. The birds flocked to eat the insects on the shrubs in the garden and the roses are still in full bloom. So is there a problem? Well, yes there is but perhaps the answer lies in the last sentence of the verse quoted earlier: ‘but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ Indeed, St John goes on to say ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in the Lord.’ John 14:1. And that in these uncertain times is our reassurance. No matter what the world throws at us we can, and must, trust in the Lord.
This is perhaps the best time in the garden; everything seems to be in full bloom. There are French geraniums, clematis, love-in-the-mist, mock orange and of course a whole variety of roses. Looking at the rose bushes in particular, it is interesting though that although they are of the same family –Rosa - nevertheless each bush is different; some are small patio roses whilst others are vigorous climbers and others still are standard roses. Thus whilst the Mamma Mia rose, which our daughter gave us, will only produce golden flowers the Queen Elizabeth rose will only produce soft pink flowers. In fact even on the same bush where you might expect the flowers to be exactly the same each flower is designed and created slightly differently. Nevertheless together they display the glory of God’s creation.
It is the same with us. Although we are all human beings, nevertheless we are all different – even those who may be twins. Like the roses although of the same family we each have our own personality and traits which will be quite different to those of the chap next door. Yet the fact remains we are of the same family – homo sapiens - and as Christians we are called to love our neighbour whatever size, shape, colour, or ethnicity he or she may be; indeed whether we like him or not! We are, after all, all children created by God in His likeness. And as Christians we have a particular responsibility to show God to the world in the way that we live our lives which must be, as St Paul says: ‘and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31)’. Just as the roses exhibit the glory of God so must we in our lives and actions.
Here is a quotation from a book that I was given on my confirmation some sixty or more years ago which I thinks sums the matter up concisely: “Do not waste time bothering about whether you ‘love your neighbour’; act as if you did” C S Lewis. Mere Christianity
I had to go to the dentist the other day. Not a pleasant experience but things have improved since I was a child. Anyway, whilst sitting waiting my turn a father came in holding his daughter’s hand. Together they went to the reception desk, where father explained that the daughter would be a new patient. They were asked to wait for a few moments when someone would attend to them. They sat down next to a window. The child had no idea where she was or why. All she knew was that Daddy had taken her for a ride in his car and then they had climbed the steps to this room; a room filled with strange men and women although with little noise as they all seemed to be reading, which was comforting. Daddy was talking to a lady who wrote things down but there was nothing unusual about that since people often seemed to write things in books or tap buttons on a machine. She was more concerned with the birds and trees she could see from the window. When the nurse had left them Daddy was still sitting next to her, he hadn’t left her so everything was ok wasn’t it? She climbed on his lap and gave him a great big smile which radiated through the whole waiting room. There could be no doubt in the mind of anyone who saw it as to the love she had for her father, which was clearly reciprocated. When they were called to see the dentist her father stood up and offered her his hand. “Come on,” he said, “Let’s go”. She took his hand and went with him through the door and down the corridor. She had no idea what lay beyond that door or where the corridor led but Daddy had a firm hold of her hand and she knew she could trust him not to let anything bad happen to her.
In the same way Jesus does not let us face the slings and arrows of this world alone. He offers us his hand and invites us to follow him, to go with him. As the young lady took her father’s hand with confidence and followed him even though she had no idea where they were going so are we called to take the hand that Our Lord and Master offers us and follow Him. The hand that Jesus offers is God’s unconditional love for us, summed up in the word Abba which means Father but can probably best be translated as Daddy. Taking His hand is our response to His love.
The other year we went along to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Annual Flower Show in the Royal Hospital grounds at Chelsea in London. This is the place to go to see gardens at their very best; confirmed by the fact that each year HM the Queen goes along to open it. Then follow exclusive ‘RHS member’s days’ before the Show is open to the public. There are a number of gardens designed and laid out by the country’s top garden designers with immaculate displays of plants in the best possible setting. In the enormous Exibition Hall are the very latest cultivars of plants and shrubs with not a leaf or a petal out of place. How do they do that? It is almost like King Solomon’s Temple in all its glory.
Coming home and looking at our humble patch ... What a difference! And yet we remember what Jesus said about Solomon. ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith! Luke 12:27-28 NIV
He will not only clothe you but care for you and love you unconditionally, too. What then are we called to do in return? What can we do? After all we are more like the humble garden outside the back window than the gorgeous perfect Chelsea gardens.
But then we recall that Jesus did not choose Pharisees, Scribes or Sadducees, expert in the Mosaic law, as His disciples, he chose ordinary folk, fishermen, tax collectors and the like. Among us there are undoubtedly some shining examples of saintly goodness but on the whole we are all rather ordinary folk with all the frailties and weaknesses of common man. Yet poor and fallible as we are Jesus calls each of us just as He called the disciples. As St Paul wrote to Timothy:
7 For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.
8 So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord...... 2 Timothy 1:7-8
Ok, maybe you feel that you are not sufficiently well skilled in theology or perhaps you do not think you have the courage to go out there and do what God wants you to do. When that happens remember that the roses are starting to bloom in my little garden proclaiming the glory of God just as the immaculate gardens of Chelsea do. So you can be sure that God has a role for you to play in His grand plan. After all as the old hymn says: All things created bear your trace; The seed of glory sown in man Will flower when we see your face.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years