Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
On Sunday we celebrated Harvest Festival at St Mary Magdalene. As it was the fourth Sunday in the month the traditional Evensong was replaced with a Celtic style service at which I was asked to give a reflection. I took as my text Mark 4:3-9, the sower scattering the seed for next year's harvest. We sang the familiar harvest hymns, of course. This is my reflection, I hope you enjoy it:
'After putting on a brilliant show of flowers during spring and summer the plants, shrubs and bushes are now getting down to the important business of producing seed to carry on the species. The bright red berries of the firethorn attract the birds who will feed on them during the hard winter to come, whilst the insects, birds and animals will feast on the fallen apples to put on the necessary fat to survive. That way the seeds get distributed, the birds and animals get fed, and the cycle of nature continues.
Now, the aquilegia matures a bit earlier than some plants, indeed the seeds are already swelling in their pods. However, it doesn't wait for you to collect the seeds in a neat little brown envelope to store, so that you can plant them where you want next year. Oh no, it is quite happy for its seed pods to ripen and then explode scattering seeds across the garden! As a result next year there will be lots of little plants growing in every nook and cranny whether you want them there or not!
Jesus' audience would have understood His parable of scattering seeds, some falling on stony ground whilst others fell on fertile soil. They would have understood, too, the symbolism of God's Word as seed.
Now since God works through us, it is our job to till the soil, mulch it properly, plant the seed, which is the Word of God, and care for it. After all, there are many in the world who need to come to hear His Word. We are called, then, to imitate the aquiliegia plant by spreading the Good News, enthusiastically and joyfully so that God's message gets into every nook and cranny of the world. Only that way will even more people come to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.'
I am often asked why I write so much about the garden.The answer, I think, is that it has so much to teach us. It does not surprise me that our Franciscan brothers and sisters say that nature is the first bible. Just look at the glory and abundance of God's Creation displayed there; the ripening fruit falling to the ground now, the dazzling colour of the leaves before the fall to cover the driveway in Autumn, the birds and tiny insects each with heart and lungs just like you and me. The Franciscan view can be seen further in the seasons through which the garden passes, for there is: 'a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted' Ecclesiastes 3:2 NRSV. This coming Sunday we will celebrate Harvest Festival at St Mary Magdalene when we will give heartfelt thanks for God's bounty.
Yet as that festival demonstrates, the plants must die before their seeds are reborn next year. So too must we and here the garden provides an allegorical representation of our life, for remember that the Hebrew word for garden is Paradise and you will be reminded that God created the heaven and the earth and all living creatures, including mankind, to live in the Garden of Eden - the first Paradise. It was man's disobedience to God's will that led to his expulsion from that garden into the desert in which he wandered until the coming of the Messiah. In the Bible our next garden encounter is Gethsemane symbolizing the death of the 'old' man but leading to the garden in which St Mary Magdalene encountered Our Risen Lord and Saviour; man reborn. Finally after this life we arrive at that great celebration described in the Book of Revelations, the garden where we will live with God eternally. From Paradise we came; to Paradise we will return.
Let us then give thanks to God for the glory of His Creation, for the abundance of His bounty, and for all the lessons of the garden.
As Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says: There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die.
Those verses came to mind when I learned that our old friend Fred had died last week.His passing was not unexpected as he had been unwell for a number of years. That said, he would never let his illness get in the way of taking a full part in everything he set his mind to do. If there was ever a job to be done Fred would be the first to say "I'll do that", and he did to the best of his ability. He was a very useful chap to have around and will be sorely missed by a lot of people, including me! Fred had spent some time in Zimbabwe although he had returned to this country with his wife several years back. Interestingly he died on the same day as Robert Mugabe, the ex-president of that country. Two men of different races, colour and status, yet God made each of them in His own likeness and knew each of them, as He does each of us, intimately and by name. Now, whilst ex-president Mugabe is reputed to have amassed a great deal of money over time, I don't think Fred was that well off financially, although he was rich in so many other ways, and generous with what he had, too. But then does financial wealth really matter that much? After all as a first century preacher once said:' Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you;never will I forsake you"' The important thing to remember is that although their paths through life took such different paths nevertheless God walked with each of them on their journey.
So as we remember dear old Fred in our prayers, let us take comfort in Ecclesiastes 3:4 'A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance' and rest assured that however hard the path may seem, whatever obstacles are put in our way, our God will never leave us nor forsake us. Thanks be to God.
The lavender bushes in the garden are in full bloom now so that the bees are taking full advantage of the sunshine to feed on the profusion of nectar they produce.Last evening as I put out the waste bins for collection in the morning a bee stung me on the hand. Although painful at the time I can understand why he did that. He was afraid of this large shape that had intruded on his space.
Fear is a natural but very powerful emotion .that affects us all in some way or another. It may be fear of flying,fear of spiders or perhaps the consequences of illness or of death. I suppose it all comes down to a fear of the unknown which is what the bee felt, I am sure.Then maybe there is a fear, real or imagined of other people, especially if those people are well, different in some way. Can we put aside our fears and, dare I say it, our prejudices to accept them or do we reject them? The word compassion is easy to say but putting it i n to practice is another matter! Then Jesus' words come to mind: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even those who do not believe love those who love them." Luke 6:32. With God's help we can overcome our fears and accept the unknown as the Psalmist wrote many years ago: 'I sought the Lord's help, He set me free from all my fears' Psalm 34:4
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK