Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
St Mary Magdalene’s Fete will be held in the Church grounds this coming Saturday from 11am until 4pm. It promises to be a good family fun day out. Of course, it doesn’t just happen as if by magic, a great deal of hard work goes on behind the scenes, before, during and after the event, much of it unnoticed although not unappreciated. For example, do we have enough plants in good enough condition for the plant stall this year? Have all the publicity flyers been distributed and are the banners clearly visible? Have the various entertainments been booked? Who is doing the barbecue this year and who is looking after the car parking? Don’t forget there will be miles of cable to be rewound after the event is over. Who will do that? Yet despite all the hard work, and no doubt the unforeseen hitches, it will be an excellent day out for everyone since St Mary’s always puts on a good show. The only imponderable is the good old British weather!
The key, of course is preparation and the same degree of hard work and dedication that is needed to put on the Fete needs to go into our spiritual lives if we are to do God’s work on earth effectively. Equally it is important to remember that as it is impossible for one person to plan, organise and run a Church Fete alone, so we need to work together in doing God’s Will. We have been given the tools to do it: prayer, the Bible and the Sacraments and of course the Holy Spirit is with us at all times to guard, guide and support us in our task. St Paul puts it slightly differently when he exhorts the young church at Ephesus to: ‘Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Ephesians 6:11-12 AKJV. But in any case I think you get the point.
If you are in the locality please drop in and join us on Saturday, you will be very welcome. I understand the temperature is forecast to reach 30 degrees so the ice cream stall should do a roaring trade, or maybe the umbrella stall!
The antirrhinum plants are coming into bloom now. Each stem has a mass of deep purple, red or white flowers along it which the bees love. Children used to call the plant snap dragon, from the shape of its flowers. As it is much easier to spell, I will use that name!
It is a sad fact that dragons have had a rather bad press over the years in most cultures, usually being linked in some way with evil. In the Bible the serpent appears in the book of Genesis and also in Revelations where it is described as ‘that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan’ (Rev 12:9 KJV). In his book The Hobbit, J R R Tolkien describes the evil dragon Smaug as “the great worm”. In this country we may not have serpents or dragons but we do have a variety of worms. But, rather than being evil, the earthworm does a great deal of good, taking down the rotting leaves into the ground to fertilise it, and by burrowing in the earth aerates it, with the result that plants, crops, shrubs and trees can grow and flourish. Indeed, without the humble earthworm the ground would be sterile. As it is, the beautiful flowers of the snap dragon provide the bees with the nectar they need, the bees pollinate other plants and the blind, unattractive earthworm fertilises the soil, so that each has a vital part to play in God’s Creation.
In the same way, you and I have a vital part to play in bringing God’s Kingdom on earth, for: ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ 1 Cor12:27 NIV, and like the plants, the bees and the reptiles we each have different skills, attributes or characteristics to bring to the task just as St Paul reminds us: ‘As it is, there are many parts, but one body.’1 Cor12:20 NIV. In other words we need to work together. Sometimes we may not feel that we have anything to offer, yet: ‘On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable’1 Cor.12:22 NIV. I doubt that the snapdragon flowers, the bees or the earthworm realise the part they play in the Grand Design, yet their involvement is essential. So is yours and mine, however great or small our contribution!
Seventy five years ago, on the 6th June 1944, Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. D-Day as it became known marked the start of the liberation of Europe from its Nazi oppressors. Many lost their lives and many more were wounded under heavy fire in the assault, but the objective was achieved. Ceremonies in this country and on the Normandy beaches have taken place over the last few days to remember, to honour and to give thanks for their sacrifice.
Yet as the politicians hurry back to their offices and the veterans return home, wondering if they will ever see the beaches of Normandy again, let us remember that, since the end of World War 2 there has scarcely been one day when there has not been war in some part of the world. Since nations now have enough fire power to destroy the planet several times over, there is a danger of war by accident, perhaps resulting from an overreaction to some perceived provocation. In her speech at the recent State Banquet the Queen reminded her audience that “after the Second World War the US and UK worked with their allies to build an assembly of international institutions to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated.” She went on to say that “whilst the world has changed we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures; nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace.”
At Pentecost we remember fire of the Holy Spirit alighting on the disciples empowering them to spread Jesus’ message of peace. As Christians we too have the Holy Spirit to guide, guard and support us on that same mission. Will you join me in prayer?
The pretty, self-seeding aquilegia is an old fashioned country cottage garden plant with delicate pink or blue bell shaped flowers. The old country folk used to call them “fairies bonnets.”
In earlier times fairies had a reputation rather different to that portrayed in cartoons today. They were often seen as mischievous and indeed sometimes malevolent will o’ the wisp creatures. Children were warned to avoid areas of woodland or springs which fairies were thought to frequent for fear of upsetting the “little folk”. They were told that if they did meet a fairy in the woods then they should doff their cap as a sign of respect – and leave the area hastily! The 19th century saw a resurgence of interest in the supernatural so that the publication of a photo purporting to show fairies in a wooded area of a garden provoked excitement among the intelligentsia. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, took it seriously. It was, he said, proof of the existence of “something out there…” Of course, the photo was a hoax, but before we pour scorn on them maybe we behave a bit like those old folk, touching our caps to the fairies. We still want to hold on to our worldly possessions, and indeed increase them, even though these may prove to have no real substance.
The point is that God knows our needs and will give us enough to satisfy them; our wants are a different matter. Remember what Our Lord said: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’ Luke 12:6-7(NIV)
The aquilegia, the fairies bonnets will quickly fade demonstrating just how illusory our wants are; yet once ripe their seed pods will explode distributing seeds to form new plants across the garden. Our wants are still there!
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK