16913 Germantown Road
Germantown, Maryland 20875-0320
Flower Communion Reflection
Presenter:Rev. Megan Foley
Sermon Date:Sun, 04/29/2012
In order to put together this service today, S.V. and I did a bit of thinking about what happens, what actually happens, when you take a bunch of different flowers and you put them into a vase, as we are about to do this morning.
This practice, of putting flowers into a vase, it is an art form in and of itself known as flower arranging, and there are different sorts of flower arranging arts that have their roots in Japan and China and France and a whole lot of other places. And all of those types of flower arrangement are beautiful, and they are quite different from each other, but you know what S.V. and I noticed right away? We noticed that even though there are many different types of flower arranging, flower arranging is hardly ever, almost never, just the act of taking a bunch of the exact same flower and sticking it in something with water in the bottom.
In fact, the true art of flower arranging involves diversity. The true art of flower arranging depends entirely on having different kinds of flowers in the pot. Flowers that droop with flowers that stand up straight. Flowers that cluster with flowers that shoot up tall. Flowers with delicate little stems that need a lot of attention, and flowers with strong hardy stalks that will do well no matter what you put them in. A good flower arrangement, a truly artful flower arrangement, needs all those different flowers to be beautiful, to be complete, to be the best it can be.
And so it can become quickly evident why Unitarian Universalists might choose to celebrate a ritual each year where everyone brings a different kind of flower, a flower that they really like, and we put them all together with all the other flowers that everyone else liked and everyone else brought and make one big bouquet. It seems perhaps the simplest metaphor in the world, because a Unitarian Universalist church, of course, is just like a flower arrangement. A UU church is an art form, where lots of different kinds of people come together to make one, whole, beautiful creation. All the bits come together to make something complete and full and unique.
We have giving people and needy people here, we have friendly folk and grumpy folk, we have people who like to talk and people who like to work, and people who like to do both, and people who like to do neither. We have people who come from all sorts of different places and who do all sorts of different jobs. We have people with opinions, lots of those, but those opinions don’t always agree.
Yet, we Unitarian Universalists come together as a congregation because we know what the flower arranger knows. The art and beauty of a church does not come from having one sort of person and putting those people just any old place. The art and beauty of a church, the true depth and holiness of a church, comes from the fact that you can take a whole bunch of different people and put them together and make them into something that they could never be themselves, or be if they were only with people who are just like them. It is the variety that makes it work.
This is true even when we don’t really believe it to be true and even when maybe we don’t want it to be true. I think people are pretty famous for wishing that other people were mostly like them, or assuming that they are. And so when we are a single-stem-straight-and-tall sort of flower, stuck in next to a short, full, bunchy, lots of stems-and-branches sort of flower, we might feel weird and uncomfortable and wonder to ourselves why everyone can’t be the way we are.
It’s hard work to remember that it is the diversity in the flower arrangement that makes it beautiful, that makes it what it is. The beauty of an arrangement of flowers or an arrangement of people is that there is unity there without anyone being alienated. You don’t have to trade your individual self to stand next to others and make a beautiful whole. If you do trade your individual self in, in fact, the whole thing falls apart. Such is it with flowers and with church.
Of course, there are some rules of the road for flower arranging. For one, in order to flourish, you have to have the right container. As you can see, this [show tall flowers in short vase] doesn’t work very well at all. And this [show short flowers in too-wide vase] just looks sort of hidden and hard to see. So the pot you place your flower in matters.
And so it matters what container you choose to put yourself in, too. What our church does, what it believes in, how it handles its people, that all matters. We all work hard to make sure that our container here, our church, is able to hold all of us, and new people too. Choosing your container is an important thing to do.
Also, in flower arranging, even though we want a lot of different flowers, sometimes putting them with similar flowers in color or type can be pretty. It honors the particular qualities that those flowers share, while highlighting their differences even more clearly because there are only a few differences to see.
And that’s true in congregations as well. If you’re a musical, talkative, friendly sort of person who likes getting to know new people and dig in the garden, then you may find yourself in situations here at church with folks who are like you, where you get to exercise your particular skills and qualities, even though those of you in your niche will never be all the same. It’s nice to find your own place within a church, your own group of people who like the same things that you do.
Still, we always remember, in flowers and in church, that it really takes all of us to make the real whole. We might prefer, at times, to hang out with all the people who like to plan and worry and make the systems and structures run just right, but we also need the people who like to get to know each other and shoot the breeze and have fun. And vice versa.
And the secret to brilliant flower arranging is that sometimes, in a bouquet where the blooms are pretty similar, sometimes the most worthwhile thing you can do is to put an entirely different sort of flower right in the middle of it all. It makes the whole thing come to life in a surprising new way. And church is like that, too.
Each of you is holding, I hope, at least one flower, and I can see already how many different types and colors we have, just as I can see how many different sorts of people we have in the yurt today. Right now, I’m going to change you all into expert artists, flower arrangers for the morning. Poof!
In just a minute, you will have the opportunity to make a bouquet. There are different stations in front of you, each with a different sort of pot, and people will be putting different sorts of flowers into each one. Take a moment to look at your flower. What sort of pot would it look best in? Pick one that you think is best for your flower – it’s okay if it’s not the one nearest to you.
As the containers get fuller, you can see which arrangement of flowers would look best with your flower added to it. Work with the other people who are putting their flower in your pot. How can you put the flowers in so that it looks beautiful? Does anything need to be cut or trimmed to make the arrangement? Your project is to take all the flowers, and make something beautiful, not leaving even one of the flowers out. Okay, get to it – make something gorgeous for us all to see.