You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
It’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to holidays. Some may already have had their summer break whilst others are restricted to school holiday time - a very expensive time – whilst others take theirs in the Autumn. That said do spare a thought for those for whom a holiday, a rest from the endless drudge of everyday life, is but a distant dream.
I recall a holiday with family in Italy a few years back. The glorious sunshine with temperatures well into the 90° F seemed endless. We enjoyed both the breath-taking beauty of the Amalfi coast, as well as wandering round the ruins of Pompeii and the town of Sorrento. Of course, we had to climb Mount Vesuvius – doesn’t everyone? Now that’s a story in itself. At the bottom of the mountain a poorly dressed old man and his wife were selling sticks to help the out of condition tourists make the difficult ascent. It was very hot and the climb looked arduous so almost everyone availed themselves of the offer. We had to pause several times for a rest on the way up but the views from the top were well worth the exertion as was staring into the awesome crater. The staggering beauty and power of God’s Creation! However, having returned to the bottom the question then was what to do with the sticks? They couldn’t be taken back to the hotel on the tour bus and in any case they wouldn’t fit in the luggage to take home. Fortunately the helpful old chap who sold them to us in the first place was on hand to take the sticks back from us. They had only cost the equivalent of a few pence so we could not ask him to give us our money back, could we? I have often wondered how much that one stick earned him over the season!
Of course, we already have a strong support when the going gets tough, when the steep hill seems to go on forever. Jesus said: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) And the great thing is that this support is offered to us freely, we don’t have to pay for it and we don’t have to give it back at the bottom of the mountain. He is there for us always. Thanks be to God.
It was hot on Friday –not as hot as last Wednesday - at 95°F that was the hottest July day on record, apparently. But Friday was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the sunshine and to sit in the garden and relax. After all, it is Wimbledon fortnight and it always rains at some point during the tennis tournament.
Whilst sitting here the scent of the lavender bushes which are now in full bloom fills the air attracting bees to drink the nectar that they will take back to their hives. The gentle hum as they work can be quite soporific! The birds too are feeding on the bugs and insects in the garden, and the butterflies are making a welcome appearance now the buddleia is coming into flower.
As I just sit enjoying the beauty and abundance of God’s Creation the industrious bees put me to shame. They have a very short life span and so need to collect as much nectar as they can in the time available to them; hence their frantic activity. In fact they remind me of St James’s injunction: “But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only.” James 1:22. Of course he was not concerned about bees or gardening; he had a much more important task addressing the need for patience, the dangers of an unguarded tongue, the claims of Christian brotherhood in the young Churches of his time. But the interesting point about worker bees, apart from the fact that they are all male, of course, is that they are not collecting nectar for themselves but for the hive, for the community in which they live. (They are collecting it for the queen bee actually but without her there would be no hive so it amounts to the same thing.) And this surely illustrates the second great Commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour.”
In an earlier blog, on Columbine, (01.06.2015) I saw the message of the resting garden as “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 and it is true that we all need to put our materialistic cares and worries to one side at some stage to enjoy and reflect upon the beauty and indeed the refreshment of God’s Creation, but we must not forget our Christian duties. Here I call to mind the words of the Quaker William Penn who said: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
So there is a time and place for everything; a time to rest and a time to work, but remember wherever you are He will be with you always.
Against one of the side fences of our garden is an evergreen climber scrambling through the forsythia, the lilac and the rose bushes. As with all plants it has a Latin name, Passiflora caerulea, but it is more commonly called the Passion Flower. It doesn’t only grow in my garden but throughout the world with the exception of the continent of Africa. From its common name and indeed from its design it has long been taken to symbolize the Death and Resurrection of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour. Indeed I am told that in the 15th and 16th centuries Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of the plant as symbols of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and if you look at the flower you can see why this should be.
From that I suppose we might expect it to flower in March or April when we traditionally celebrate Easter but it does not – well, not in this country anyway. In fact it blooms throughout the summer. Sadly, its flower may only last a day or so; which is a pity really since the flower is exquisite in its design.
However, I take from this simple yet beautiful flower a daily reminder throughout the summer that Christ died on the Cross for me and for all mankind; for us and our salvation. And for that I am truly thankful.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years