Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
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?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years