Ah Sunflower

Lent 1C – Fr. J. DevinRodgers

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the Sun:

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,

And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:

Arise from their graves and aspire,

Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

  • William Blake

It has been 18 days since the Invasion of Ukraine began.  There is certainly no shortage of difficult-to fathom news these past 18 days. We’ve watched in horror as Russian tanks and artillery lurched towards metropolitan areas as citizens fled for safety. We’ve seen shocking images of kindergartens and maternity wards destroyed by bombs. The Babyn Yar Halocaust Memorial was struck by a the humanitarian crisis happening in Mariupol

This past week, the news became “too much,” If it is too much for me living thousands of miles away in safety, I cannot even imagine the way the Ukrainian citizens feel – Hiding in shelters, growing weary of time, counting the days, and more than likely counting the hours or minutes until peace and sanity is restored.

For those of us not in Ukraine we are presented with a different struggle. We are faced with the reality that political and national structures are not solid. They shift and collide with one another. In their wake the economies of the world do similarly. Most of this is out of our day to day control and so we have to wrestle with other questions.

Where is God in the midst of this and What are we called to do?

Of course we should, and we have, responded with refugee assistance.  We’ve offered prayers. This past week Social Concerns decided to make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development.

However, I believe we are asking the wrong question. While “doing” is certainly important, no amount of good-deed-doing result in an end to conflict. It doesn’t end war or any other human ailment. There has to be something behind these good deeds. 

Instead, what if we asked, “What is God calling us to be?”

God is is calling us, and promising us, that we are God’s children. All good works and “holy doings” start from this designation. 

“Look toward the heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be. This covenant made with Abraham is eternal and for us Christians was the lineage from which Jesus descended.  

To take this a step further, accepting and fostering this kinship gives us the ability to set aside everything that might separate us from God. The big one use in scripture is “fear.” “Don’t be afraid” is said over and over again.  

When we set aside fear we are able to claim and express the kinship we have with God

I Of course you’re going to be afraid when facing war. Of course being diagnosed with cancer or anything life threatening illness is terrifying. It makes sense that Abram was afraid his lineage would pass away. For the Church in Philippi there is a real fear of being harmed and persecuted In today’s Gospel Jesus is told “Be afraid! Leave this place, for Herod wants to kill you.” 

Setting aside fear, accepting and living as a child of God is how good works originate. For Christians we believe we are adopted into the family of God as children and that this is God’s desire for all humanity.

What a difference that makes! 

How can one person who sees the holiness in themselves deny the holiness in another? War, from this perspective becomes the desecration and destruction of the sacred. 

What do we do about the war in Ukraine? What do we do about the war in any country? What do we do about the war within our own families, communities or within our very selves. 

For us the answer becomes obvious. 

We look to the Son of God, model our lives from his teachings, and with the help of the Holy Spirit allow ourselves to “be” what God fully intended us to be.

When humanity sees the brother and sisterhood of God among one another, wars become impossible.

Therefore, we must surround ourselves with reminders. 

—-

This past week the campus ministry student leadership team at Capital traveled to Miami, Florida for studies and mission work. One of the students, who recently began attending St. Alban’s, Noah Fischbach, wrote the following about his experience.

Beloved, beloved… amado, amado… all beloved…

That was the silent prayer I whispered yesterday as I held the sign saying “Welcome” for the cars pulling up to receive food from a food drive in Miami. 

While I made sure to keep a smile and remain energetic, I truly felt in a holy place. To me, these people approaching were strangers, with some smiling and waving as I did, and others driving on. But they were also brothers and sisters, my family in Christ. And I was sharing Christ with them.

He continues to describe visiting a church that was planted in a CrossFit gym, working with Haitian immigrants in a food bank, a youth service made for children in and outside the church. All these ministries used the various gifts of God’s children.

He ends his writing by exclaiming:

Also, we’re soaking up plenty of sun before our return home!

Which brings me back to the sunflower, the national flower of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and a sign of their resistance.

I imagine a vast field full of yellow flowers. 

In the morning their shining faces face the rising sun and follow it through its daily travels, sinking and rising on the horizons. 

With each day following the Sun they grow stronger – fuller, taller. 

Seeds form then fall to the ground and take root. One generation birthing the next equal in beauty.

Stand at the edge of this vast yellow galaxy of blooms. 

Count them if you can. 

Immense yes, but still fewer than those claimed as children of God.

Following the Son, may they live in peace..