Flowers and Freedom

Presenter: 
Rev. Henry Simoni-Wastila
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 05/01/2016

Flowers and Freedom--© Henry Simoni-Wastila

Flowers are beautiful, and so they are a symbol of beauty. But I think they can be symbols of other aspects of our lives. They symbolize simplicity, for they are unadorned. They symbolize the tenacity of life, for they are strong. And they symbolize being at one with the earth, for they are at peace with nature.

When you think about it, flowers are the beginning of the harvest because the flowers are often followed by fruit set. Therefore, they symbolize the promise of fruition and abundance. Flowers bring to our eyes, and to our noses as well, many colors and scents, many hues and fragrances. Therefore they symbolize the great diversity of life. Flowers also bloom profusely and symbolize growth. And that growth for us can be physical growth or spiritual growth.

In so many religions, there is the tendency to think that there is only one right way. But alongside one’s own search for the way up the mountain should be the growing realization that there may be many other ways up the mountain of religious experience. And so, flowers are symbols of the many paths that can be taken. Not every flower has to look exactly the same. And so with religion, not every religion has to look the same as ours. The other religions still have value. Our Unitarian Universalist religion allows for many different paths, many different flowers.

Flowers remind us to walk with care upon this earth. It is ours to care for. For flowers are fragile. They depend upon a clean environment. They symbolize our responsibility to care for nature.

***

The beauty of flowers reminds us of other spiritual lessons as well. In my story, “Mommy, Let’s Get These,” (*See story below) we are reminded that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How frequently mass religion, or mass ideology, tells us what is right.

Well, I think that true insight into our lives will never be had by following the herd. So much of what we believe, is something we are told. We scarcely notice how much we are told. “So much freedom we have, but such little use is made of it!” We have to learn to balance the ideas of ancient scriptures with what we experience in our own lives.

***

I have a confession. I have come to love dandelions, at least some of the time. I love their name in middle French, dent de lion. “Dent de lion” means lion’s tooth. From the leaf… I admire the tenacity of dandelions. They can live almost anywhere.

Dandelions are tough little growing things. Dent de lion. They are tenacious! Have you noticed they grow lushly, were practically nothing else will? That’s a lesson for us! In early spring, they flower and set seed upon the wind. Kids make crowns out of them. Children collect the yellow heads to give to Moms, and blow the fuzzy, helicoptered seeds to the four corners. These disparaged plants are wonderful and humble. Have you noticed how wonderful, tenacious and beautiful they are?

So much freedom we have, but such little use is made of it! We can see beauty and meaning in so many places, in so many ways, but do we look?

***

The Flower Communion we celebrate today remind us to look for beauty in our lives and in nature. But along with the beauty, we remember tenacity, being strong. We remember our strength when facing what has wounded us, but not stopped us, the pains endured, the illnesses we have gotten through, the challenges we face, even our losses, but through which we have learned to live with grace.

As flowers fight drought, we too we have experienced times of need.

As flowers fight bugs and slugs and pests, so we too have fought off conflict that would eat us alive.

As flowers endure having their blooms picked at the peak of freshness, we too have had times when  others have taken our best and given their worst. But we try to bloom again.

As flowers endure the storms and the rains and the hail, so too have we weathered storms in life.

But, we never forget how to bloom, to try again, to reach upwards and open up to the world again.

They are tenacious, but they are beautiful. We too celebrate the victories in life, the glorious moments of miracles we sometimes did not expect, but which came to us. We celebrate the expressions of love which found fulfillment, the hopes answered, the enrapturing beauty saw from afar that we were able to touch. We celebrate the many glories and the small, simple gifts of this life.

 

*"Mommy, Let's Get These!"

One of the nice rituals of spring is a trip to the nursery to select some new plants for our garden. This one Saturday was a beautiful April morning --white puffy clouds punctuating deep marble blue. Not warm enough really, but better than March.

We were not the only ones shopping for perennials. A mother and father were selecting flowers with their two boys. One was about 9 the other 5. Most of the perennials we were looking at were not in bloom yet. They have a later season. They bloom in the summer. Therefore, you have to look at the tags set in the soil of the pot to see the picture of the blooms--unless you already know the varieties.

Mom and Dad had made several selections, and the 9-year old was showing how strong he was by carrying the whole tray. However, the 5-year old had become disappointed with the quality of these flowerless plants. He walked away a couple yards to the side of the greenhouse and made a tremendous discovery. He had found the best flowers of all! Lush green foliage and bright yellow blossoms almost two inches across. What a find!

He called out in an excited voice, "Mom, Mom." His mother turned towards him to see what trouble he was possibly getting into.

"Mommy" he said, having gotten his mother’s attention, "Let's get these." And he pointed to the flowers at the base of the greenhouse with both arms outstretched and a beaming smile. The mother just said, "No, I think will get some others."

For myself, however, I smiled that the boy had found such beauty in those humble flowers. And then I chuckled a bit for the little kid had happenstanced upon a patch of dandelion in full amazing bloom. I laughed and then the mother did too. It was funny, of course, the idea of buying this weed which we spend so much time and worry extricating from our lawns and gardens. How helpful it was to have a son suggest that more be purchased along with Coreopsis, Platycodon and Bearded Iris.

Yet, there was something more than humor. I could see --through the 5-year old's eyes-- that these were, in actuality, beautiful flowers. They were larger and lusher than the plants in 4-inch black plastic pots on the galvanized steel mesh table. They were wild, untamed, healthy and full of color. Yes, oh yes, we can find in this mysterious, ambiguous creation, a discovery of rich, verdant growth and joyous beauty.

 The moral of the story is simply, to see more of the beautiful in the ordinary. It is also to find that richness is sometimes more apparent in the natural than in the cultivated. "Let get these." Yes, I agree fully with that. Let's take some of the joy of the ordinary into our hearts. Perhaps, this is a metaphor for a philosophy of the whole of life. The simple pleasures, the acceptance of beauty, meaning and value where we find it, not where we are told to look for it or where others want us to look. As Zen and Emerson teach us, look to the realities we see with our own eyes and feel with our own hearts. Indeed, "Let's get some of these."