A talk and reflective meditation using natural materials to help people connect with nature, with their own reality and the message of the day.
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. 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 staying 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.
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? 🙂
Poppy seed head
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 🙂
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.