“Consider the lilies of the field.”
The evening worship at church last night was contemplative prayer and the “witness” gave us familiar words of Jesus to reflect upon.
The back has been troubling me and I sat awkwardly in the pew contemplating the lilies.
It was no good, lilies wouldn’t do.
Considering lilies brought visions of Orange banners on the 12th July adorned with bright orange blooms or pictures of Easter 1916 and the blood and destruction at the GPO. Lilies might have been neutral in First Century Palestine, but they can mean all sorts in Ireland.
‘Forget the lilies’, I thought, ‘try flowers instead’.
‘Consider the flowers of the field’.
The tune of ‘Flowers of the Forest’ came to mind; the lament played by a piper to recall the Scottish dead at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The lament was followed by thoughts of the song “Green Fields of France”, inspired by the slaughter of the Western Front, which asks if the pipes played the ‘Flowers of the Forest’, and then Joan Baez singing ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ None of which was really very helpful to peaceful contemplation.
Flowers wouldn’t do at all.
We had young trees planted in our garden in the summer, three white birches. They seemed much better suited to quiet reflection.
Consider the white birches of the field? Well, consider the white birch outside my window. It’s very thin and frail and I asked the gardener should it not have a stake alongside it.
“No”, he said, “it will bend in the wind and that will drive the roots deep”. A comment which had within it the seeds of a sermon, one about adversity creating depth.
But it wasn’t the picture of the tree swaying in the wind that came to mind, it was the picture of the bag of dried farmyard manure the gardener dug into the soil before planting the tree. Maybe growth always comes through pushing through the waste and decay all around, maybe even the best flowers come from the greatest waste.
Coming home, I wondered whether Jesus would have ever seen thing that way; I suspect not, but it did suggest that there might be a purpose even in the rubbish things of life.