You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
You may remember that the other day I mentioned the pink camellia in our garden. Over the last day or so she has woken from her winter sleep and put on her new soft pink finery. Most attractive she looks standing tall with the purple aubrietia and multicoloured primula at her feet. In the breeze she nods politely to Sir Pieris opposite. He has donned his salmon pink bracts several days ago and has been waiting for her to bloom whilst the raucous red and gold wallflowers further along the border shout their approval. The beauty of God’s Creation in a few square feet of my garden! Thanks be to God.
Originally from eastern and southern Asia the ornamental variety of camellia was first seen in England in the garden of Lord Petre at Thorndon Hall, just seven miles from my home, in 1739. However, the plant is much more versatile than that. On the Indian sub-continent and in Asia the leaves of one branch of her family are processed to create that beverage without which the British Empire would fade into obscurity – tea! Another branch of her family produces a most important cooking oil for millions particularly in southern China; whilst a third branch produces an oil used for hair care in Japan. Such versatility in what we have come to know as a simple garden flower!
And yet when we think of mankind we soon realise that God made us in His own image but in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and so on. Like the camellia God has given us a variety of roles to play 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 simple message from this may seem to be that we should use the talents given to us wisely, but I think there is more to it than that. We are all one family ‘each member belongs to all the others’. Thus we each of us have a responsibility for all our family members. That may be a quick hug for the lonely or frightened old man going into hospital or perhaps it is compassion for those drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to safety in Europe. Or maybe it is to support for those marching to seek a wage that they can actually live on. Whatever it is, we have a duty to embrace the second great commandment, to ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years