In Just Spring

When I was a little girl I would often walk the yard with my mother. As soon as it was warm enough to be outside without a coat, we would slowly walk around the yard, noting the progress of the bulbs and other flowers. She with a coffee cup in hand, me trailing along beside her.

We would walk a few steps, stop, admire….she’d tell me the latin names for whatever plant we were near…we would walk a couple more steps, and stop…she would gesture with her hands how tall some shrub would eventually be in 2 or 3 years time and how this nearby evergreen would some day fill in the fence and hide the neighbor’s ugly electric meter…then we would walk a bit farther and my Mom would be still and silent. I could see from her familiar drifty gaze that she was envisioning a carpet of blue tiny flowers that would spread from the few plants now showing. My role was to say, “Ooh! ….Ahh!” at the appropriate times.

From my earliest memories it was like this, sometimes I walked around and tried to take in the information she was sharing…but the greatest gift I got from these walks was a religious education. It was entrancing to be with her, to learn the vision of a gardener.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us:

“In April, we cannot see sunflowers in France, so we might say the sunflowers do not exist. But the local farmers have already planted thousands of seeds, and when they look at the bare hills, they may be able to see the sunflowers already. The sunflowers are there. They lack only the conditions of sun, heat, rain and July. Just because we cannot see them does not mean that they do not exist.”

Gardeners are perhaps the most successful optimists in the world. Gardeners are people of faith, ones who see beauty and hope where none currently exists. It is easy for most of us to lose sight of the warmer, more plentiful times of year in the fall, when plants are dying back and the sun is retreating. Through the grey and icy winter- how do we keep hope alive? Gardeners do it by securing a promise of bright days under the soil.

As we mark the beginning of Spring- the bulbs we planted in our fall gardens are coming up now- some are even blooming. We are turning the soil in our vegetable patches, preparing to plant for the future. Sure the ground seems bare, but there is great potential and a renewal of what we know is good, and that hope carries us through until colorful blooms and plentiful harvests fill our senses.

The stories of resurrection make a lot of sense in the spring. People have found ways to pass along the wisdom of knowing that even in the darkest of times, there is hope for the future. Hope that we all carry around inside, just like a seed carries all the potential of a sunflower.

(A message delivered to Channing Memorial Church on March 25, 2012. By Halcyon Westall)


The Gift of Leaves

Last Sunday, we celebrated an early Earth Day at Channing. I wanted to share the Palm Sunday Message for All Ages I gave for those who were not able to be there. I hope to see you all on Sunday at our Easter Service!

The morning had dawned clear and bright and Jesus told his friends, “Today we will enter Jerusalem.” Jesus had been out in the hills and villages, spreading his message of love and peace. He was going to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Many people were following Jesus. They, too, wanted to change the world.

As he led them toward the city gates, an amazing thing happened. The crowd around Jesus became bigger and bigger! Hundreds of people poured out of the city to welcome him cheering and shouting. His ride into the city was a welcome fit for a king! Just outside Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of his friends to get a donkey. When they brought it back to him, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. As Jesus rode the donkey into the city many of the people tore palm branches off of nearby trees and waved the palms for Jesus. Some even spread their cloaks and palm branches on the road as a symbol of respect.
At that time, the people saw Jesus as their king. They were tired of being ruled by the Romans, who were cruel. The people of Jerusalem hoped Jesus was the one who would change their lives for the better and fight off the Romans, but Jesus was not a warrior king. That is why he rode into the city on a donkey instead of a general’s stallion. He was trying to show the people that his was a mission of peace. The donkey was a symbol of peace. Jesus was also trying to send a message to the Romans, that he was not going to fight them with violence, he was committed to using peaceful ways of making change. Jesus understood the power of peace.
There is a lot more to this story, which we will hear next week, but today we celebrate Palm Sunday. Palms are given out in Christian Churches a week before Easter to remember when Jesus came into Jerusalem. But why do we celebrate with leaves? We do this because nature speaks to us in a special way.

Every time we bring greens in for Solstice, water for Ingathering, or daisies for Flower Communion we are honoring the connection between nature and our faith tradition. I remember as a little kid getting a palm leaf at church and feeling so happy that 1) We got a present from church and 2) the leaf showed that church understood what was important to me. Everywhere outside the world was waking up and being green! I identified with the way these long ago people of Jerusalem honored a great person! Did you ever get a palm leaf as a child? Take a moment to think of what it symbolized to you. Does it mean the same thing to you now?

We are not the people of ancient Jerusalem, many of us here are not Christian, some of us are, but we can all celebrate this day and these palms because we see in Jesus a teacher who took the risky and vulnerable road, turned the world upside down, and helped the weak and helpless. Some people think of Jesus as the son of God. Others think of Jesus as a great man who had a peaceful mission of radical non-violence, fairness and equality, and certainly a person with a strong sense of social justice. Jesus was a man of peace who believed that we are all connected in an interdependent web.

We can take a palm today to remember that we need to open our hearts. This leaf is a celebration that there is a non violent way to be powerful, we can make real and permanent change in the world and inside ourselves. I invite all who would like one to come take a palm as the traveling chalice leads the children and youth to classes.

(c) 2012 Luiza Chandy

PS- thank you to Robin Hollow Farm for getting us such gorgeous palm leaves!