You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
I find that flower pots, like the plants they contain, often seem to have a mind of their own. When I am not looking they appear to multiply and grow. In amongst the cobwebs, in almost every corner of the greenhouse there is another flower pot that I am sure wasn’t there yesterday. Of course they are always useful but what to do with the surplus? It seems a shame to throw them away. After all, as we know the oceans of the planet are choking under the amount of plastic that we discard. The fish, birds and animals, over which God made us stewards don’t forget, are dying as a result of our “throw-away” society’s habits. Fortunately for me the Annual Church fete came to the rescue. There on the Notice board was a request for flower pots! Hurrah, now they can be re-used by someone who needs them!
This idea leads nicely to Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke 15:8-10, where Jesus speaks of the woman who has ten pieces of silver but loses one. She lights a candle and sweeps the house clean until she finds it. Then she and her neighbours rejoice at recovering it. In the same way God seeks us from amongst the dust and grime of this world, looking in all its murky corners until He finds us. Of course, we must want to be found for He will not coerce or force His Will upon us, but having found us He rejoices. ‘In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’ Luke 15:10 (NIV).
So as the flower pots are refilled with compost and planted up with fresh seedlings, or new plants, for the enjoyment of someone else ask yourself, what more can you do for God today?
The Annual Church Fete will be held at the end of the month and so it is an ideal opportunity to deliver the parish News-sheet to every house in the parish. As you can guess this is quite some undertaking but hopefully there will be enough willing hands to share the load. I picked up my round on Sunday and set out during the week to deliver them. I deliver on a relatively new estate some way from where I live so it is interesting to see the houses and, as you might expect, the gardens. Some people take great care with their gardens, one had a border of deep red roses round a neatly manicured lawn whilst others were filled with a mass of exotic flowers producing a riot of colour. It was impossible to pass by without stopping to admire them. Others were simply a sad patch of grass and weeds – still I expect the birds and insects appreciated it. One thing which did sadden me was the number of front gardens paved over to accommodate two, three or four cars. One ecologically minded chap had plugged his electric car into a cable running from the house to charge it. Very eco friendly provided the old chap delivering the Parish News-sheets doesn’t trip over it!
As you will have noticed by now there were so many distractions on the round that it is a wonder that anything got delivered at all! But then there are always distractions in life. For example, the ubiquitous mobile phone means that everyone is contactable at any time of the day or night.
Let me ask you then. When you made your morning prayer today did you have a real conversation with God? As well as talking to Him did you listen to what He had to say to you? Or were you distracted by thoughts of how you would handle the meeting later today, or maybe “Will there be a parking space at the supermarket”? It is so easy to get distracted; I do it all the time, but remember that God made the world and everything in it. He made you and me in His own likeness and, as St John said: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16 NIV. That means we are His Beloved children so that He wants what is best for us. And so if He is prepared to do all that for us shouldn’t we spare some time for a proper conversation that involves not only talking to Him but listening to what He has to say to us.
So, please take the time to prepare properly, to put aside all distractions, to focus on your prayer, and to listen to God.
Yes, I completed my round and indeed I understand that all the houses in the parish were covered in record time.
This morning I saw a pretty five petal single rose in the garden. As this was nothing like the double roses now flowering exuberantly I wondered where it had come from.
Those of you who have followed this blog will know that all the plants, flowers, shrubs and other inhabitants of our garden have a message if only we take the time to really look. Individually each flower, fruit, bird, or animal is unique and shows the care and attention God has given to designing and making it. Collectively they display the glory, the abundance, the beauty of God’s Creation. Laudato Si!
So far as the rose is concerned, there are hundreds of varieties for sale, but in order to ensure that each grows true to type it is necessary for the nurseryman to graft the variety he wants onto a wild rose root stock. It seems that simply taking a cutting taken from an existing rose bush will not guarantee that the resulting plant will flower as expected. It will not develop to its full capacity; indeed it may well revert to the wild! Of course, the wild root stock is still alive, it will throw out shoots and if not checked will bloom. That is what had happened here - the single five petal rose was the flower of the wild rose.
So what is the lesson the rose bush has for us today? Think of it this way; the old man created in Adam is the wild rose – attractive enough in its own way but not developed to achieve its full potential. The new rose is the new Man. The old Man is still there, but now it has been given a new life through the Holy Spirit. As St Paul wrote to the young church at Ephesus: ‘so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19(NIV)
Interestingly, the wild rose flowered for a very short time and then faded away whilst the rose grafted onto it has put forth a mass of flowers this year.
Today is a Bank Holiday, a day of rest from work that was originally designated as such by the Bank Holidays Act 1871. No doubt many of us are looking forward to a holiday or at least a break from the daily grind. But then since God is with us wherever we are do we need to go anywhere else?
Look out of the window at the glory of God’s Creation on display there. Whether you have a garden that matches the finest on display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, a simple back yard or just a window box, God creative beauty is there – yes, even in the daisy pushing its way through the concrete in that neglected corner! Just yesterday we were lucky enough to see a brightly coloured male chaffinch, a relatively common bird but not a regular visitor to our garden, came down to eat the aphids from the rose buds. And today the blackbird is singing away as if his life depended on it whilst the robin is doing his best to make himself heard! The garden is now coming into its most abundant and glorious season as all the plants and flowers come into bloom. Why would we need to go anywhere else?
Leading on from that I think that the important point we need to remember is this: on the sixth day when He created the universe ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ Genesis 1:31(NIV). Now, remember that by this time He had already made Man and Woman and given them stewardship over all His Creation. That responsibility is one that each of us must accept. Indeed, it is vital that we embrace the duty passed down to us wholeheartedly. We are called to care for our world and everything that is, or lives in it. We must not destroy it wantonly simply for our own profit. Nor must we disregard, deny or ignore the needs of our fellow Man, whoever he or she is.
As I’ve probably said before, there are a number of plants, shrubs and trees in my garden but each one is an individual in that each is a different size, shape, colour or design. There are strident red and gold wallflowers growing next to the soft pink camellia bush whilst at the feet of the salmon pink pieris sit a froth of sky blue aubrietia. Of course, amongst them are a few weeds but even they differ in size and shape from their neighbour. Yet they do not clash with one another; in fact they all flower quite happily together.
Now look around you at the person sitting next to you on the bus or train, in the supermarket, on the school run or your work colleagues. Whilst they may be of a different ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation, yet like you and me they were made in God’s image.
The simple question then is this. Why is it that the plants in my garden can live happily side by side and together produce a glorious display, whilst we humans with our supposedly vastly superior intelligence, find it so difficult to get on with one another?
Of course, this is not a new problem, since when writing to the young church at Corinth St Paul made just this point: ‘Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.’ 1 Corinthians 1:10 (AKJV) But many years have elapsed since he wrote that. Have we learned nothing in all that time? It seems not!
Next time you look out on your garden, or on the floral display in the local park, think what you need to do today to live Jesus’ commandment to Love Thy Neighbour.
The other evening we watched a gardening show on TV. Everything the expert presenter touched turned out perfectly, producing a beautiful garden. Why does mine never look like that? However, it seems that one thing did not work out as well as he had planned. He explained that to complement a tall plant in a large pot he had planted three varieties of tulip at its base. The idea was that they would bloom in sequence thus enhancing the effect of the star plant. Sadly with the violent and unexpected changes in weather we have experienced over the last few months the tulips did not bloom as he had hoped.
But then life is like that. As Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s best known poets wrote in his poem ‘To a Mouse’ in 1785: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.” In other words no matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. Nearly three hundred years later things have not changed! Today, life seems to throw just as many obstacles in our path, perhaps leading us down dark tunnels where we would rather not go. All those carefully thought out decisions and well organised arrangements made that come to naught. And why?
Yet our faith in the Resurrection of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, illustrates clearly enough that evil cannot triumph, for good will always overcome it. Right at the very beginning of St John’s Gospel he makes that point very clearly, for we read: ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ John 1:5 NIV. Of course, we need to bear in mind that God’s time scale is not ours, so that we may sometimes be led to wonder where God is in all this chaos. But we can be sure that He is there, now and forever, walking alongside us. After all, we are God’s beloved children and as such He cares for us and wants the best for us. That may not be what we expect or perhaps think we need but who are we to argue with God?
Indeed that point was made by what happened to the expert gardener’s careful planning. It seems that rather than bloom in sequence as planned, all the tulips bloomed together as one, producing a much more glorious effect than if they had bloomed in sequence!
Let me introduce you to one of my favourite plants in the garden, the clematis. We have four clematis plants growing in the garden, each a different variety and each in a different place. One attribute they share is that they are all enthusiastic climbers. In their haste to reach the sun they will twine their delicate tendrils round anything within reach whether it be it an arch, a wall or another plant for support. Indeed I have seen a neighbour’s clematis climb a utility pole and then make its way out along the wires over the street! The display they put on when they all come into bloom is quite dramatic.
The fact that they need the support of other plants illustrates two lessons to us. The first, I think is to ask ourselves, on whom do you rely for support in your journey through life? The answer will be a trusted friend or relative and here two Bible passages come to mind. The first is Jesus’ invitation to: ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ Matthew 11:28(KJV). The second reminds us that we are all members of God’s family for it reads: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed by thy name’. Matthew 6:9(KJV). Who can be more trustworthy than Our Father God? We know that we can confidently pray to Him and be assured He will be there for us.
The second question then must be who needs your support today?
Just as the clematis needs the help and support of others as she scrambles ever upwards, and as Christ supports you on your journey, for whom will you be Christ today?
There are so many plants, shrubs and bushes in my garden; forsythia, mahonia, primula, pieris, wallflowers, roses and camellia, to name but a few. Each has a specific form and function; the butterflies swarm to the buddleia bushes but ignore others, for example, whilst the birds happily devour the berries on the firethorn at autumn time. Each is a work of art in itself but taken together as a whole picture, the effect of all these diverse plants is truly stunning. Now, I am not an expert gardener so the beauty of God’s Creation in a few square feet of my garden must be His work! Thanks be to God.
In the same way, God has given us humans a variety of roles to play as individuals and in society. As St Paul explains in his letter to the Romans (12:4-6):
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
The point I want to make here is “though many, [we] form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. Whilst we are individually called to do God’s work here on earth, using the different gifts we have been given, we are also called to work together. That way we can achieve so much more for Him.
Like the plants each of us is a wondrous work of art, delicately formed by our Creator, and as individuals we can achieve quite a lot, but when we work together the effect can be truly amazing. Let us then unite to praise God, to express our gratitude to Him for the wonders of his Creation and to work together for His purpose. And don’t forget that Jesus said: ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’ Matthew 18:20(NIV).
We are not solitary plants in the garden for Jesus is with us.
The blackbird is a member of the thrush family. The male has shiny black feathers with a bright yellow beak, whilst his mate is a dull brown in colour. One habit they have is that they are early risers, always the first of the birds to awaken. Yesterday night was quite warm so that we left a window open. Sure enough at 5am this morning, forty five minutes before sunrise, Mr Blackbird burst into song waking us and rousing every bird in the neighbourhood to join him in the dawn chorus. I would like to think, as I believe St Francis would have thought, that he was offering a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to his Creator and encouraging everyone else to do the same.
Many years ago the Psalmist wrote: I believe I shall enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living Psalm 27:13. I can quite understand that for God’s goodness is all around us. In my garden the plants and flowers are in full bloom; a golden yellow theme at present but the camellia is coming into flower so that it will soon turn to a display of blues and reds, the birds are singing and the bees are supping the nectar from those early flowers.
But maybe you don’t have a garden, perhaps you live in a high rise block of apartments where the only green in sight is the plastic bags blowing about in the draught. Where is God’s goodness here? Look out of the window to see the birds using the telegraph wires and ledges on the buildings to perch as there are no trees. Is that a hawk in the sky? Whatever is he doing in the city? But don’t you remember reading that the council is employing the services of its owner to keep down the pigeon population? Or look down on your way through the city streets. Is that a daisy pushing its way through the concrete proudly showing her flower amongst the litter and rubbish? Then there was the cheerful train announcer who burst into song this morning as he warned you that your train would be delayed. He won’t make that TV talent show, but at least it raised a smile. And then what about the colleague who made a cup of coffee for you just when you needed it?
In all these, seemingly little things we can see and enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Heaven is not somewhere up in the sky where God does whatever deities do – Heaven is here on earth.
Let us join the blackbird and the other birds to sing our hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God!
There are a number of old fashioned cottage-garden plants, often inherited from friends and relatives, growing in our garden. One that is now starting to bloom is Lunaria annua, a hardy annual with toothed, heart shaped leaves and large open clusters of purple flowers. A very grand Latin name for a garden plant but it has a more common name; honesty.
Honesty is a human trait that seems in rather short supply these days. With the social media platforms available to all and sundry these days, lies and deceptions are easily and quickly spread, soon gaining acceptance across the world. Of course this is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, St Peter writing to the young church in the Gentile community in Asia Minor at a time when violent persecution of Christianity was in the air says: ‘... having your conversation honest among the Gentiles.’1 Peter 2:12 (KJV). Since the purpose of his letter was to comfort and encourage those Christians who were already suffering some degree of persecution for their faith, perhaps we may take comfort in his message that these afflictions are only temporary and that those who suffer are drawn into a closer fellowship with Jesus and so progressively become more like Him. Indeed if we take Christ as our example, he suggests that our sacrifice, like His will not be in vain for he goes on to say: ‘whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’ 1 Peter 2:12 (KJV).
Of course, I am not suggesting that you are all liars and cheats but are we always as open and honest in thought word and deed, with people as we should be? I leave you to think about that one.
Anyway, what has all this to do with the garden plant? Well, once it has finished flowering it sets its seeds in a flat round papery, transparent seed pod – that’s how it gets its name.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years