Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
So many people are involved in the Church Fete, whether distributing the Parish Newsletter to tell people about it, collecting flower pots, plants and etc., for sale, manning a stall on the day or counting the takings at the end, everyone has a part to play. This expression of community effort reminds me that in the Lord’s Prayer the words, Thy Kingdom come...on earth trip easily from our tongue. Are we ready to devote the same amount of time and energy to achieve that, I wonder? Indeed, what do we mean when we ask for God’s Kingdom to come on earth?
So two questions: firstly, what would God’s Kingdom on earth look like and secondly how can its coming to earth be achieved? We can be sure that it will not look like any kingdom or state that currently exists on earth, that’s a certainty. As to how it will come, well that needs our prayers.
The foundation stone on which God’s Kingdom will be built must be LOVE. God’s Kingdom on earth will be a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control; where there is no more fear, poverty, violence, persecution, hatred, intolerance or hunger. A place where each and every man, woman and child is treated with equal love and respect regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation; and not treated as a pawn in some political power game. When Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. This is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:38), He made no exceptions. Neither must we. Our love must be inclusive of all people; whether you like them or not. Protecting those unable to protect themselves is central to our Christian discipleship. Equally, we are called to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, as well as those who are oppressed, strangers, outsiders or who may be considered marginal.
Is this a naive, unattainable pipe dream? Whilst it might seem so, it is certainly not, although making it a reality will not be an easy task. Yet as Jesus’ disciples that is what we are called to do. But no one person can achieve it alone. We must unite to work together as we do with the Church Fete. We need God’s help, but we also need each other if we are to build communities of faith. Take heart and remember that Jesus said: When two or three are gathered in my name I will grant their request Matthew 18:20 NIV. Working together as one the task becomes easier.
Let us then pray the Lord’s Prayer, and work with one another towards achieving “Thy Kingdom...on earth”. If we can even make a small progress towards that goal then: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 NIV), as Jesus’ reminds us.
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.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK