I remember picking flowers one Easter Sunday after a morning worship service. I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, because we moved from Waxahachie, Texas to Hotchkiss, Colorado when I was in the second grade. My father was the pastor of a small Assembly of God Church in Waxahachie, and he had recently graduated from Southwestern Assemblies of God University. I don’t remember which church it was, and there are several Assembly churches in Waxahachie, the training ground of many of the denominations clergy.
Back to the flowers. The church was on the outskirts of town, and it bordered a large open field. I’m not sure the church owned the land or not, but I remember a field of wild flowers on this Easter season morning. So, like many boys would do, I decided to pick a bouquet of flowers for my mother. The field was full of yellow dandelions, and other assorted colors of wild flowers, or what some people would call weeds. What I remember was that my mother made a big deal about how pretty the flowers I brought her were, and it seems I was immediately more popular with the other women of the church. So, what’s a boy to do. Pick more flowers for more mothers.
I remember Easter was a time when all the women would bring out their Easter Bonnets and fancy Easter hats, and all the families, at least in the churches I grew up in, came to Church on Easter Sunday in their best duds. I didn’t have a big wardrobe as a kid, but I did have school clothes, and those were not my “Sunday go to meeting” clothes. I had special shoes for that too. I had school shoes and church shoes. But, most of the time I went barefoot, except for school and church. Eventually, and I’m not sure when it happened, my mother and most of the other women in most churches quit wearing hats. I bet some of you can tell me about those days. Maybe you still have some of those hats in your closets.
Here’s a question for you. How many of you have taken a dandelion after it has gone to seed, held it in your hand and blew the seeds off? It’s like a whole bunch of seeds paragliding to the ground. And, some of those seeds will take root and bring more dandelions into the world. Okay, if you don’t care for dandelions choose another wild flower that you prefer. Springtime and Easter have this in common, “new life”. The church is like a garden of the Lord. And, into this garden, both you and I are planted. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says these words: Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear new life, but if it dies it will rise again in the shape of a new plant. (John 12:24)
Every year Naomi and I try to take a trip to Borrego Springs in the Anza -Borrego Desert to enjoy the beautiful fields of desert flowers. I tried counting the different kinds of flowers once, but the task was too extensive. When I view these fields of wild flowers, including the different cactuses in bloom, it gives me pause. Churches are like a colorful field of flowers. The community of faith to me is a beautiful picture, and each person possesses a special beauty. Easter is a time to rejoice in the risen life of Christ, and it is also a time to reaffirm that we are not alone. God does not intend for anyone to be left out of this beautiful garden. All are welcome.
Paul Tournier, renowned Christian medical doctor, author and pastoral counselor, is quoted in his book, The Meaning of Persons, with these words: At the heart of personality is the need to feel a sense of being lovable without having to qualify for that acceptance. As a caretaker of the Garden of the Lord, it is my privilege and responsibility to remind others of their value and importance. I welcome you to join a safe place, a place that is well cared for. You are not alone, and I invite you to enjoy the heart of my Easter time message this morning: God loves you just the way you are, not for what you have done in the past, or what you may do in the future, but right here, right now, in this present moment, God loves you! You are not alone.
I love Easter and Spring Flowers!