Consider the wild flowers.

Luke 12: 22 – 27.

A talk and reflection for the May Day weekend using the flowers of the hawthorn tree.

This talk and reflection is inspired by Christ’s use of nature to describe the ways of God. The seasonal moment of the May Day festival, which occurs as part of the community’s social life, couples with the understanding of our responsibility to God for the way we look after and appreciate the Creation of which we are a part.


In Luke chapter 12 Jesus asks us to look at the wild flowers of the field and learn something of the nature of God.

This isn’t the only time that we hear Jesus using nature as a way to describe the spiritual life.

  • In John we have Jesus describing himself as the vine with ourselves as the branches.
  • And then in John again, Jesus refers to himself as the seed that must die in order to produce the fruit of new life for all.
  • To describe how some will respond to his words while others won’t, Jesus uses the parable of the sower.
  • When talking about the end times, Jesus uses the image of the way we notice new leaves coming on the trees and know that summer is on its way, as a way of telling us to look out for signs of his coming Kingdom.
  • In the Old Testament we have this very strong statement from Job as he answers the jibes of his critical friends –

‘Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of the Earth and sea for their wisdom. All of them know that the Lord’s hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power. ‘ Job 12 v 7-10

All these verses suggest that Nature can speak to us of God, but clearly there is an expectation that we will have the necessary knowledge of the natural world around us in order to understand the message.

I believe that when Jesus tells us to consider the lilies (or more accurately wild flowers) we are expected to take note and appreciate what we can learn from God’s world about his ways of working.

  • ( As part of the May Day service each member of the congregation will have a sprig of may blossom (hawthorn). This service could be adapted for use at a different time of the year in which case alternative seasonal flowers could be used.)

May blossom – so abundant and beautiful right now around the May Day weekend.

You can’t help noticing it as it fills the hedges along the lanes, with its mass of wonderful creamy white flowers, coming hot on the heals of the previous white blooms that have filled the hedges in April – that of the blackthorn, later to develop into sloes, famous for their part in the creation of a certain alcoholic beverage πŸ™‚

These blossoms en masse are so striking that I have heard it commented that it looks like the hedgerows are having a wedding!

It’s not surprising that in ancient times the may blossom was seen as a symbolic representation of abundance and fertility, and was almost certainly used as part of rituals that were thought to help the crops grow.

But what benefit has the hawthorn to us now? And indeed if Jesus were to ask us today to consider the may blossom, what would it be helpful to know?

Well, first of all its been growing in Britain for a very long time and is therefore fully integrated into the ecology of the area. It is a small shrubby tree which is highly adaptable and can grow on most soils, and hence is found right across the British Isles.

As an idigenous tree it offers many benefits to other species, and plays an important part in diversity; notably it supports over 300 different types of insect, including a wide variety of moth, the larva of which can be found feeding on the leaves. The flowers which are food to dormice, most obviously provide nectar for pollinating insects, including of course bees, for which they must provide a fantastic feast. Come Autumn the flowers are going to turn into fruit, which are highly nutritious and provide an excellent food source for birds. Thrushes in particular enjoy the hawthorn berries.

The tree itself, especially when kept low as a bush or hedge makes an excellent nesting sight; the hawthorn having thorns, which are there to protect the plant, also help to protect nests, as tangled thorny branches are difficult to penetrate by cats or larger predatory birds.

From the human perspective the hawthorn has been useful when planted as a protective barrier and to keep livestock in the fields. The berries being highly nutritious could also provide sustenance during the Winter months – some here may have memories of making hawthorn jelly. Interestingly, if you asked a medical herbalist about the quality of hawthorn from a health point of view, they would tell you that it can be helpful for heart conditions, and that used correctly it will strengthen heart function.

How useful is this humble tree! And a great example of the way nature is designed, with plants and animals working together, interdependant with one another. The wonder of it must surely lead us to praise God.

So having considered the natural function of the may blossom, how might this plant be found to express something of the ways of God?

Well, first of all I would suggest abundance. God hasn’t just produced one or two flowers. No. Across the hedges we have millions, perhaps billions of flowers. Surely this speaks of a great generosity – a joy in expression of life. And it is right when we see all this splendour to respond with joy in our hearts.

Secondly we are looking at diversity. 300 insects on one tree – just one tree. Why would you have so many different types? What are they all doing? I’m sure that David Attenborough would be able to tell us what role they all have and what place they have in the ecosystem. But clearly this must tell us that God likes variety. He has created difference. As humans, difference and diversity can sometimes be awkward for us. We tend to prefer people who are like ourselves. Differences can be challenging, but God has created us each with our differences, and we need to honour and respect that in ourselves and in others, so that we might all find our place in God’s Kingdom.

Thirdly we are not only diverse, but we are interdependant. The birds eating the berries will pass the seeds around. Insects feeding on nectar will inadvertently pollinate the flowers.

Things work together and cooperate by design. And of course this is the same for us as human beings – we too are designed to cooperate together.

Lastly – if we are to believe the practice of the medical herbalist then we have here the image of a plant that can work with our hearts. Most of us will prefer to consult a practitioner at the local surgery or hospital if we think we may have a heart condition. However perhaps there is something in this element of God’s creation that can speak into our hearts and open us further to his ways……..


So we come back to consider our wild flower of the field; our may blossom.

Shall we take a moment to study our flowers? Looking carefully, you’ll be able to see that each flower has 5 petals. The centre of the flower has a slightly green tinge – this is the stigma – the female part of the flower. Dotted around this we have some pinky coloured dots – these are the stamen which hold the pollen, and they are the male part of the flower.

Some flowers are open, and some still in tight bud. Once the flower is open the bee is able to access the nectar, which the flower has produced in order to attract the bee. While the bee is doing this, it will inadvertently catch pollen on its body, spreading it about so that some pollen will find itself on the stigma where it will travel down to the centre of the flower and fertilisation will occur.

After this fruit will start to develop.

If we cast our minds outside now, we will be able to visualise those bees buzzing in the hedges, taking advantage of warm daylight hours, as they engage in the same process that has been happening for millenia. Working to God’s design – enabling species to continue in this great cycle of life.

Over the past few days you may or may not have noticed bees at work around the blossoms, but we can be sure that God has! For just as he knows when a tiny sparrow falls to the ground, so he notices, and knows about everything in his world. And he delights in what he has created.

How do we respond to God’s creation? Do we too delight in this simple flower. And as we wonder at what God has made, how might God speak to us?

Maybe there is something about these tiny flowers, some open, some still in tight bud, that can lead us to consider ourselves, and our own hearts before God.

As these flowers have opened in response to the sunlight, our own hearts can open to the light of God’s warmth. We are in need of God’s love, and to receive we need to be open to him.

As we open we become available to the working of the Spirit.

There is always healing in the ways of the Holy Spirit.

Healing, hope wisdom and love. The Holy Spirit brings about new learning, new connections, change and transformation.

And then we will notice the fruit.

The fruits of the Spirit are –

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These are the fruits of the love of God as he works within us.

God’s love flows and from him we can draw support for growth, for generous actions, and expressions of love, even in those places of darkness, the places hidden from ourselves and others. God’s love flows to the places within us and within the world, most in need of healing.

We trust God. We trust in God above all and beyond all things. The psalmist tells us that there is nowhere that God’s awareness and love cannot reach. He knows us and loves us full well. He even saw us when we were being formed in our mother’s womb. Even before anyone knew of our existance God knew and loved us. We have been loved from the beginning.

As the bee goes from flower to flower seeking nectar it accidentally transports the pollen from stamen to stigma.

But of course there is no accident! All is part of God’s purposeful design.

We know that we are all a part of God’s plan of life.

So with our hearts open to God, trusting in his plans for us and for the whole of human kind, let us pray that we may be confident of our place and purpose both in this world and in the Kingdom to come, as we live out our lives to his praise and glory.


Candlemas – a talk and reflection.

Candlemas – using candles to find our light.

For use in a service of Christian worship around 2nd February.


So here we are at the beginning of February, often considered a time of year when people are feeling that the cold winter days are going on a bit, Christmas seems a distant memory, and there’s not too much to look forward to other than the probability of more snow, rain and chilly winds. The people of times gone past certainly would have felt this time of year very keenly as the food stocks began to diminish, and going out to look for firewood could mean a long trudge through whatever the weather offered. The hope of warmer, brighter days would have been strongly in their mind as perhaps they are for us?

Well there’s one positive thing that you may well have noticed around this time – and that is that the days are getting noticeably a little bit longer. It was in fact still light at 5pm yesterday evening – a whole hours difference to 6 weeks ago, when the shortest day gave us only less than 8 hours daylight.

The ancient peoples would certainly have noticed this, and in pre-Christian times they would have undergone certain rituals to encourage the sun to increase in power and bring back the sunlight that they craved. These rituals would almost certainly have included the lighting fires and tapers of light.

Whilst of course with the advent of science we know that all life depends to some extent on sunlight, we also know that we do not need to light fires in order for Spring and Summer to come round again. But more than this, as Christians also we recognise that we depend on a far a greater light – that of the Light of Christ.

Given the way that the seasons affect us, it is perhaps not too surprising that the church chose this time to bless the candles that were to be used throughout the year. The blessing of candles at Candlemas dates back to the 11th Century, and to a time when candles and oil lamps were the only source of light available during the dark hours. From the start Christians used candles for the practical purpose of providing light in places like the Catacombs, where they met in secret to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Soon candles came to represent the Light of Christ, and were used at baptism and confirmation to symbolize the Christian turning from the darkness of sin to the redeeming Light of Jesus.

So here we are surrounded by all these beautiful candles, with our Easter Candle here in the centre. This candle was originally lit for the first time at the Easter service of first light and its purpose is to represent the Light of Christ. It has been lit for every baptism that has happened in this church during the year. After the hymn I’m going to lead a short meditation during which I will invite you to come forward and light your candle from the Easter candle as a way of demonstrating that we are all lit from the one true source – our Lord Jesus.

All life seeks light in order to grow, and depends on the sun for food and warmth. Simeon and Anna sort the greater and uncreated Light of God and recognised Jesus as that very Light. Just as they did, we seek the Light of Christ for our soul’s well being, and while we appreciate all the good things God gives us, including the hope of warmer days & sunshine, we celebrate this opportunity to offer our lives to Him the one true redeemer of all things.


We’re now going to think about lighting our Candlemas candles. Please could you take hold of your candle.

So as we think about Jesus the Light of the world, recognised by Anna and Simeon, and recognised by ourselves here today, we reflect on all that he gives us, especially his Light.

God is present everywhere. ‘If I go up to the highest Heavens you are there, if I go down to the depths of the Earth you are there.’ We are never out of God’s reach, and that is always a comfort. In the same way we can recognise Jesus’ presence in all that we meet. Christ the living Word, through whom all things were made, loves all people and indeed all Creation. As with Anna and Simeon it is our response that will make all the difference – as the Holy Spirit enables us to recognise Jesus, and ignites that fire within us, so that we can blaze with his Love.

Jesus calls us to shine as a lights in the world. It is of course his Light that he calls to shine in us, not the impressiveness of our own deeds. Sometimes keeping that light burning can be hard; there is plenty to dowse the flame in a world that does not recognise or welcome his Light. And so we need to come back to Jesus regularly in order to reacquaint ourselves with the warmth of his love; just as a flame needs oxygen so that it can burn brightly, we need to take moments to nourish our relationship with him.

So, as we prepare to come forward to light our candles from this beautiful Easter candle, let’s for a moment focus on this one flame. It is of course just a candle flame, but for us at this time, this candle represents Christ’s living flame. Christ’s flame that burns continually and burns for all. Christ is Light for all, and is Light for us each individually. At the end of the day it is our response to Jesus’ Light that will make the difference. In the lighting of our candles we acknowledge where our true Light comes from, and we open ourselves up still further to his healing Light for ourselves and for the whole world.

Let is spend a moment of quiet and the stillness, as we focus on the Easter candle, drawing our minds to Christ the Light of the world, the Light our souls yearn for.

And when you are ready, please come forward and light your candle, and then return to your seat.


Now we all have our candles burning, representing Christ’s Light as he burns within you. A Light to dispel darkness and fear, to enlighten your mind, to brighten dull days and show a clear path before you.

Christ’s Light is given freely, yet so precious. Let us consider the wonder of the way that this Light shines within us now. We are indeed blessed by this Light, and we in return are encouraged to bless.

We are united in our lights, all our lights are burning from a light symbolizing the one true Light of Christ. In this light we are one with each other and one with Christ. Together we burn brightly to the glory of God.

Around the edges of our church, on the window sills and on the chancel screen we have another hundred candles burning. I’d like to invite you to think of these candles as representing those that are no longer with us, but whose lights none the less burn brightly in Heaven. You may like to think of those who have worshipped here with us and no doubt held their candle, as we do, for services of Advent, Easter or Candlemas. Faithful souls who are now with the Lord. We are surrounded by a host of faithful witnesses, we are part of an unseen and far greater Communion of Heaven.

Let us all as one shine as a light in the world to the glory of God our Saviour.


In a moment we will all blow our candles out. But before we do I’d like us to say a short prayer to help us take the flame home with us in our imaginations, so that we can remember that we always have Christ’s Light with us as we go about our lives.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the Light of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We praise you for this Light. As we look at our candles, we ask that we should remember this moment. Help us to think about the way that your Light, just as this candle burns, burns within us. Help us to act in ways that protects, nourishes and cherishes your light within us, so that we may always remain conscious of our connection with you.


Please raise your candle. Christ’s light remains with us as we blow out out candles [blow]

A Celebration of All Souls Day with Nuts and Seeds.

A talk and reflective meditation using natural materials to help people connect with nature, with their own reality and the message of the day.

May blossom 4

All Soul’s Day comes at the end of Harvest.

By the beginning of November the trees, whose colours will be turning to gold and yellow, have mostly dropped their seeds, and creatures such as squirrels and mice will have taken the opportunity to fill their stores in anticipation of the long winter months. Humans too will have brought in their harvest; grain will have been dried and stored in barns, apples and pears will have been placed in suitable cool, dark spaces, the glut of garden veg will be over, surplus will be in the freezer, jam will have been made.

Those living the countryside will notice a certain musty smell in the air; it is the smell of decay, the smell of damp leaves and rotting fruit – things are returning to the Earth.

Not surprisingly earlier cultures chose this time of year to remember their dead. As things die back and the year approaches it’s close, we may easily be reminded of life’s transience, and feel the loss of loved ones. Pre Christian religion called this festival Samhain, the Church christened the date and called it All Saints/Souls Day.Β It has become traditional the hold a service of remembrance.

I wanted to create a service that would capture the sense of our connection with the earth’s cycles so as to harmonise with some of the original meaning of the festival while stayingΒ  true the Christian promise of renewal and rebirth in the Spirit. In using the nuts, seeds and delicately decayed poplar leaves I hoped to bring together a sense of the natural reality of change and decay while staying true to the hope of new birth in Christ which is always available whatever the season. Autumn leaf

Introducing the subject – my talk in church as I gave it last year.

Well, here we are at the beginning of November and I think we can finally say by the drop in temperature, that winter has arrived. We can still enjoy the colours of Autumn as the leaves fall from the trees, along with a host of seeds and nuts which we find ourselves trampling under foot.

As you sat down in your pew today I hope that you found a collection of seeds and nuts. I’ve gathered these over the past couple of weeks, they all common to this area. Would anyone like to tell me what they are? πŸ™‚

Conker/horse chestnut
Kent cob
Sweet chestnut
Poppy seed head
Field maple

So we can identify our seeds. Which of these seeds to you think are edible, and which might be poisonous?

Well they are all edible by something, mostly squirrels and mice. But interestingly they are all, apart of the sycamore, edible to humans, though whether they would taste nice is another question πŸ™‚

In fact some have more uses than just eating! If we take our humble conker for instance – I was amazed to find that not only can conkers keep spiders out of houses and moths away from our clothes, you can also use them to make soap!

But of course the main reason for the tree generating all these seeds is to make sure that there are more trees in the future. Apparently a single oak tree will produce at least 70,000 acorns per year. It’s clearly part God’s design that trees and plants should reproduce themselves abundantly!

Creation expresses itself in abundance and diversity, and is full of surprises. All the seeds that we all looking at today are really quite different in appearance, and because we have seen them before we recognise them and know the tree or plant they came from. But just suppose we had never come across these seeds before, suppose we had somehow just arrived from outer space and had no knowledge of how such things worked, and then someone told us that this dried up dead looking little round thing could in fact potentially sprout and eventually become a massive tree and live for over a 300 hundred years!
From observation there is nothing about a conker that indicates that there is any life in it at all, let alone that it might grow into into something 40 metres in height.

We don’t need faith to believe this because we know this is the case through science and observation. We don’t need faith for things that happen in our material world and that we have seen happen over and over again.

But there are some things that we definitely do need faith for.

We do need faith to believe in God, we do need faith to believe in the power of Christ’s redeeming love. We need faith when we pray for things to happen, believing that God will answer. And we need faith to believe that one day the Kingdom of God will come.

In our reading today Jesus uses the mustard seed to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven, and the enormous potential for life that we can enjoy with him.
The mustard seed is only about 10mm in size, yet can grow to 10ft tall.

Nature gives us many clues as to how God works.
Let us look at our conkers again.
A bit dried up and shrivelled – yet within that brown skin lies the potential for new life and huge growth – unbelievable potential!

God looks at us as we look at the conker.
God knows the true potential that lies within us.
When God looks at us he sees well below the surface, and into our inner being.

All of us are unique and deeply loved by God.
When we can respond with faith, and open ourselves to God’s loving care, we are more than likely to find a spark of new life igniting within us, as we flourish into the people God has created us to be.

So when we are out and about this Autumn, and we see seeds and nuts on the trees and on the ground, let us praise God for the wonders of his creation, as well as the potential we all have when we are ignited by his love.

The reflective meditation – the potential for new life in a seed and our own potential for new life in Christ.


Please draw you attention to the delicate
skeleton leaf that you were given when
you came into church today.

I’m sure you will appreciate the amazing
lace like pattern that is revealed in this semi decayed leaf. What was once a green and flourishing part of the tree’s system of transforming light into a food source, has now broken down, revealing the network of veins whose job is was to nourish and strengthen to the whole leaf.


So if I can invite you to pick up your leaf and feel how light and fragile it is. Notice how tiny and complex the pattern of the veins are. If you had looked at this leaf when it was in its prime and growing on the tree you may have noticed the basic structure of the stem and main vein running up the centre of the leaf. But we would never have been able to see all the tiny capillaries that we can see now.
We wouldn’t have been able to see them – but God would! Because of course God can see all things from both inside and out.
Jesus tells us that not one sparrow drops to the ground but that God knows about it. Perhaps we can extend this to not one leaf drops on the ground but God is aware. We believe in a deeply loving all knowing Father who is aware of everything that lies within his creation on Earth and beyond, in ways we can never fathom, but can only trust. Trust in God’s love is really all that we are asked to do, and having trusted to respond with love.

So let us spend a moment as we reflect on this leaf in its beauty and fragility, considering God’s power to create and love all things.
God loves the world, and most especially he loves us – his children – each one of us is loved deeply by God.
Each of us is loved in a way that we cannot hope to be loved by any other.
God’s love reaches down into the very depths of us seeing past what other’s may see on the surface, seeing past what we may project of ourselves, seeing past the labels and expectations that society has placed on us, seeing beyond our fears, our failures and our pressures, right into what is there in our deepest selves – into that unique, and sometimes fragile person so much in need of love.

God sees with eyes that love. God sees the beauty of what he has created. God never stops loving despite our sometimes wayward ways. In compassion God offers us his loving forgiveness and hope for better things.

In the quietness of our hearts let us ask for God’s help to respond with thanksgiving to his unfathomable love.

As we consider this tiny part of God’s creation , we praise God for the wonder of creativity,
the wonder of his all pervasive love,
the wonder of his capacity to sustain all things, to forgive, renew and empower us to respond with love to him, our Father, and to each other in faith.

Thanks be to God.