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Inventions of Summer: Sunflower - June 28, 2020

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Luke 12: 22-28 & Why I Wake Early (poem by Mary Oliver)

Over the course of the next couple of months, we are going to set aside a few Sundays to look at the inventions of summer. I did not invent the inventions of summer….this idea comes from another Mary Oliver poem entitled, The Roses. Today our first invention is the flower.

Flowers have a way of bringing joy and delight as we gaze upon them; they are often part of the most important occasions of our lives. They are present at weddings, funerals, and birthdays, communicating heart felt feelings of hope and promise of new life. Having just celebrated my birthday this past week, I was gifted with flowers from gardens, and can attest to not only their beauty but the sentiment in which they were given. This morning, I want to focus in on the sunflower in particular and share with you its symbolism.

I did a little botanical research this week and found the Sunflower to belong to the Aster family. Its Latin name of Helianthus Annuus comes from a combination of Greek words: Helios translates to sun and anthos meaning flower. Helios was the Greek sun god and Anthos was actually a Greek name used for boys. The fact that this flower has been thought to always face towards the sunshine, may well be another reason why it was given the name by which it is known. Certainly, if there ever was a plant to be named after the sun, it should be this one. Who can argue against the beautiful and magnificent bright yellow petals and the fact that it appears to look towards the sun.

The sunflower also appears in Greek mythology. A water nymph by the name of Clytie fell in love with the sun god, Apollo. For whatever reason, Clytie’s affections were not returned. She became depressed and stopped eating and drinking. In time, the other Greek gods felt sorry for Clytie. Eventually they decided to change her into a beautiful flower, a sunflower, as this was kinder than leaving her as she was. Clytie the sunflower always looked up towards Apollo, the Sun God. The flower appears to worship the sun because the blooms have been thought to face the sun as it slowly moves and travels across the sky each day.

From a more scientific point of view, the sunflower tracks the sun because it possesses an internal circadian rhythm to receive the most light for photosynthesis…the flowers turn overnight to face east because their internal clocks anticipate sunrise. As the plants mature and turn from growth to pollination, this process stops and they position themselves towards the rising sun which warms the flower and attracts bees…a very good thing indeed.

Because of its perceived ability to follow the path of the sun, the sunflower is said to symbolize qualities of steadfast loyalty and faithfulness. It represents happiness, radiance and all things that are positive and life-giving. I also found many proverbs attributed to flowers in general from many different traditions. We are familiar with saying, April showers bring May flowers. A Chinese proverb cites fortune and flowers do not last forever ; a Finnish proverb says To an optimist, every weed is a flower; to a pessimist every flower is a weed.

Today I invite us to bask in the beauty of the flowers, sunflowers, lilies, peonies and petunias, roses to name only a few, and to take some time to truly contemplate their invention and what they bring to your life. We have had a stressful few months with the arrival of COVID 19 to BC and across our globe. We are living in a time of uncertainty and yet summer arrives despite the cloud of a pandemic that seems to hang over us. We hear Jesus’ invitation to walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? Today we are invited to pay attention to the beauty that surrounds us and consider our relationship in this magnificent createdness that literally comes into full bloom in the season of summer.

Jesus lived a life where he sought to minimize fear and worry and anxiety through the simple acts of listening, of being grounded, of being mindful of the present moment; he encouraged a letting go of the hold on the past and the fear of the future has on us. He reminded his friends and community that they were not alone. When we connect to nature, take time to smell the roses and pick dandelions, we are experiencing God right at our fingertips. Jesus is saying look, be mindful of the flowers…turn your face to the sun and receive the blessings of our Creator and creation.

Blessings call out goodness in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us. This morning, I leave you with a blessing written by a gifted liturgist, Janice Maclean:

“Bless you, Sun, for you are faithful in your daily journey across the sky.”

Bless you, Sunflower, for you bring cheer to many hearts.”

“Bless you six feet distant from me, that you be well this day.”

Pronounce blessings today. Bless the experiences and encounters of this day remembering the Sustaining Presence of the One with us in all times, in all places, and in all circumstances. Bless the earth, its creatures and all the elements, as you come across them today. Affirm their essential goodness. Bless the humans, whether you know them or not, and trust the blessing reaches what is good and true and beautiful in them. Bless aloud. Bless silently. Be generous in pronouncing your blessings.

Amen and Amen

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