Thought of the week
This week I am sitting in the garden, enjoying the singing of the birds and the sunshine as I write my thought. I can sing along with the birds too and, smugly, feel that I am more tuneful than they. I am fond of the rooks who build their nests in the tall trees that surround the garden but, although they are intelligent, engaging and amusing birds, no one can call their voices melodious.
The weather forecast suggests that this may be the last day for some time that I can bask in the sun. I fear that from tomorrow I shall have to exchange my Panama hat for my tweed winter hat and my deck chair for my fireside armchair. So, before the north wind blows, I thought I would show you a little of the garden.
By the front gate, the lupins stand erect like proud soldiers guarding the entrance to a restricted place. No one shall pass here without our permission, they proclaim. Like Palace guards, they are admired by passers by out for their daily walk and, sometimes, even photographed. But no matter how proud the soldier, there are some forces he can not withstand. Come a frost and my lupins will be a sorry sight.
Some proud soldiers were posted to guard the tomb of Jesus. No doubt they felt certain that they could deter anyone who tried to open it from the outside. They did not expect it to be opened from the inside and, when it was, they were as wilted as a frost bitten lupin. No earthly power can stand against the victorious Godly power of the Saviour!
Come a little further in and you meet the flamboyant beauty of the clematis and the exuberant, self-confident strength of the Rambling Rector rose. Nothing in this garden is more wonderful or more deserving of attention than we, they proclaim. We may vie for position, but we know that we are far higher and more deserving of praise than any other of the plants.
Jesus met people such as this. Many of them were leaders of society, Sadducees and Pharisees. But they were so puffed up with their own importance; so sure of their own infallibility that they could not recognise God in their midst
Come to the back and meet some other colourful friends. Rather like a respectable professional man, the bluebell looks up to the gorgeously arrayed aristocratic azalea whilst looking down on the small London pride which can only make its presence felt by its numbers. Do you remember the old television sketch where John Cleese was the aristocrat and Ronnie Corbett was the working man?
Jesus had and has the ability to relate to each on equal terms without intimidating or condescending
The azalea, the bluebell and the London pride may represent different classes but they all have their place in the garden and all are respectable.
However, every garden has its uninvited guests. I took the photo of the lawn a couple of weeks ago when the celandines and primroses were at their height. They have faded now but the daisies are still going strong and they have been joined by dandelions and speedwell. A purist who likes a neat lawn of velvety grass would view my patch with horror, but I like the little invaders and so did Jesus. He was constantly being criticised for associating with the wrong sort of people.
Once He even invited himself to stay with a particularly notorious and rapacious tax gatherer. And, by doing so, He worked one of His greatest miracles. He saw that under the greed and selfishness, there remained a man who had been made in the image of God; a man who was capable of love and generosity. So, by being accepted by Jesus and finding His friendship, Zacceus became a new man.
Yet even those who know this story well still, all too often, look at the outside only.
I reached my teens and a time when fashion became important to me in an era when young people of both sexes wore their hair long but well groomed and their clothes tight, colourful and well tailored. I thought it all very smart and I still do. Throughout the twentieth century and, indeed, until now, I think only the Edwardians could rival the late ‘60’s and early’70’s for smartness of fashion.
Holding such views, I found and find, the skinhead fashion most unattractive and, when it was combined with punk, rather intimidating.
Some years ago, when punk was at its height, I was driving through the Forest of Dean. Suddenly, I became aware that my car had a puncture. The wheel nuts had been tightened mechanically and I could not shift them. I contacted the AA but they were busy and warned that it would take two or three hours before they could get to me.
I had sat for some time when a battered old car drew up behind me. Out got a brawny and ferocious looking young punk. I truly believed that he was planning to mug me. “You in trouble?” he asked, “I’ll fix it.” The stiff wheel nuts were no problem for him. Soon the wheel was changed. I offered him some money for his trouble. “No”, he said, “I may be in trouble some day,” got into his car and drove off.
How small I felt. I had judged this good, kind young man by his outside appearance. Jesus never does that and He is never taken in by worldly status
Once Jesus’ disciples decided to squabble about which of them was the greatest. He calmed them and brought a little boy into their group, putting his arm round him. “Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.” He told them.
In each child, there is the spark of God, for we are made in His image. All manner of things can conspire to mask and hide it. It may only be an ugly fashion, but it could be deep and horrible sin. If it is only fashion or difference, the goodness soon shInes through. But there are those whose wickedness seems so deep that we wonder if they can be saved. Yet all are the children of God and it is for the Christian to seek to find the best in all and to pray for the unlovely just as easily as we pray for the lovely.
Whether you are an extrovert dahlia, a shrinking violet or a pernicious nettle, may the Lord watch over you and encourage you and everyone in your garden this week.