Reverend Norbert Capek knew people needed the blessings of community. He lived in Prague, Czecholslovakia and was the minister of a small Unitarian congregation. They met in a plain building. They had no music, beautiful windows or coffee after the service. They came, heard the sermon and left. Capek wanted the people to understand the blessings of community. He wanted them to see, feel, and understand what a blessing it wss to come together every week: each bearing unique gifts and creating a rich and vibrant community
One Sunday, Reverend Capek asked everyone to bring a flower the next week, a budding branch, even a twig.
“What kind?” they asked.
“You choose,” he said.
“What color?” they asked.
“Each of you choose what you like.”
The next Sunday, the first day of summer, people came to church with flowers. They brough yellow daisies and purple roses. They brought white lilies and blue asters, dark blue pansies and long branches with pale green leaves. The flowers spilled over, pink and purple, orange and gold, yellow and blue, filling all the vases they could find.
“We are like these flowers,” Reverend Capek said. “Different colors, different ages, different sizes. We are different in so many ways. But each of us is beautiful and important, in our own way. Like these flowers.”
All noticed how each flower was beautiful on its own, but also how they were absolutely spetactular together.
The purpose of life, I believe, is to love the world with all our hearts, and minds and souls and to bless the world with our love, our passion, and our gifts.
Flower Communion reminds us to love the world.
How easy it is to love the world when surrounded by flowers. They are so delicate and almost tender with their soft as baby skin petals and vibant colors: pinks, purples, yellows, reds, oranges, whites.
In all their forms flowers are improbable, wonderful and magical.
How could Life come up with so many ways to be beautiful?
Flowers exist for plant reproduction. Their scents and colors lure pollenators that carry those precious flecks of yellow pollen from one flower to the next. This explanation makes flowers sound so reasonable.
But there is nothing reasonable about a rhodondendron foaming with pink flowers.
There is nothing reasonable about the scent of lilac.
I remember as child standing before the lilac’s lacey walls of purple and green at and breathing in deeply. I felt wonder, peace, joy, and grace. Even now the scent of lilac makes me feel like all will be well.
Surrounded by flowers, it is easy to love the world.
At Flower Communion we celebrate not just the beauty of flowers – but our own beauty and gifts and each others’ beauty and gifts.
“We are like these flowers,” Reverend Capek said at the first flower communion. “Different colors, different ages, different sizes. We are different in so many ways. But each of us is beautiful and important, in our own way. Like these flowers.”
Capek reminds us that we each have unique ways of being and particular gifts that bless the world.
We are beautiful. We bloom.
While it is always easy to see the beauty in a flower – it is not always as easy to see that beauty in ourselves.
Our culture shares ideas of perfection: on human beauty, intelligence, and on what makes us worthy and good. American culture still holds on to the old Calvinist idea that you can tell the worthy, the saved, the good by what they display to the world: degrees, salaries, job titles, houses, cars, body shape, clothes, places visited.
We, personally, may not agree with those cultural standards of worthiness.
But we still may have ideas about what makes people worthy: intelligence, list of books read, hours of justice work read, the success of their children.
Or maybe we don’t even hold those standard for others, but we might certainly have a list of what makes us unworthy and lacking in beauty. We become obsessed with our flaws.
We are not smart enough or fast enough or organized enough. We are not creative or interesting. We don’t understand the newest technology or speak clearly. We are forgetful, inexperienced or too young or too old.
We do not see our beauty. We do not see our loveliness.
But what if we did not try so hard to be what we think we should be?
What if we just basked in the sun like a flower blossom?
Got nourished by the rain and earth?
What if we were simply…. still?
The poet says, “And you — what of your rushed and useful life? Imagine setting it all down — papers, plans, appointments, everything — leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields to be lovely. Be back when I’m through with blooming.”
What if we could go to the fields and bloom into just who we are? What if went and simply loved our own loveliness.
Some people can do this, and they are the blessed. Others have experienced such moments washing over them unbidden and unasked for.
For most of though, we have times in our lives when, we need help discovering our loveliness.
That is why we need beloved community.
We need a community that sees what is wonderful, special and remarkable about us.
“Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.
to put a hand on the brow of its flower and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;”
We can learn to teach each other our loveliness.
We can help each other bloom — that is a true act of ministry – helping people bloom.
But often, in religious community we don’t do that:
We are human after all.
We can teach unworthiness as quickly as we teach loveliness.
It is easy to pass judgement when people don’t live up to our standards – any kind of standard – from education to taste or from conversational abilities to appropriate political perspectives.
It is easy to hold on to anger, to speak unkindly, or to get irritated at someone’s failings, quirkiness or different way of doing things.
Unfortunately, even small unkindness, judgements or lashes of anger and irritation grow some people insecurities and feelings of unworthiness.
We slip up. We act in ways we wish we had not. We don’t put love and compassion first.
This is why in UU congregations we make covenants with each other. We convenant to journey together to discover the ways of love. We know before hand that we will fail this promise, so in our covenant we pledge to try again when this happens.
It’s hard to think about teaching anyone their lovliness or remember one’s own loviliness at times like these.
Healing takes time. It takes effort.
It means listening deeply. Offering compassion. Apologizing for harm done. Forgiving harm done. Seeking both/and solutions. Discovering others’ loveliness.
These are all acts of love.
So are smiles. Talking to a person we don’t know. Inviting someone to do something or help us or the fellowship. Supporting those who need our care.
At Flower Communion we celebrate love.
We bring many kinds of flowers and put together them in vases.
They are more remarkable together than alone – the differing sizes, shapes and colors bring out the others’ best — blessing each other.
That is what love is. That is what ministry is.
Coming together and doing the sometimes difficult work of acting with love and seeing each each other’s lovliness.
When we do, love expands and grows and everyone has the freedom to bloom.
That is what make UU Fellowship of McMinnville a specatular bouquet — blessing the world with our beauty, love, passion and gifts.
Finally the earth turns toward summer. Most days are not much different than our long gray damp spring. Yet it is different. Lush vibrant greens drench the world. Flowers spring up from the earth in brilliant color. Rhododendrons froth in pinks and whites and petunias and alyssum droop lovely over the sides pots. Summer flirts, it is true, but nonetheless we hear it singing of hope and joy. It is here.
This morning we celebrate this bounty, this life. We each brought with us today to this place of community and love all the flowers we could find. Those growing in fields and forests, adorning our yards, or colorful from stores and shops. We chose these flowers for their beauty, and we brought them here, to this place, to share their beauty with each other.
Each of these flowers, alone is a special gift.No two of them are alike. We could spend all morning learning to know the special color, structure, fragrance of each flower. Together, as they are here, they take on a very different beauty. Together, they remind us of the richness and bounty of the earth and of the gifts that make both the universe and this congregation places of beauty and grace and wonder
We are like the flowers. Each of us unique, different. It takes a whole lifetime to get to know anyone completely, to know their beauty and their gifts and their quirks. But when we come together, when we pile together in church, and join our voices and our hopes and our energy, something special happens. Our beauty is multiplied, our gifts increased, our quirks smoothed.We become a human community, a place where each is gift and each is a receiver of gifts.
This we symbolize with the flower communion. From many places these flowers have come to brighten the world for a moment; from many places we have come to brighten the world for a moment. Here, different gifts and shapes and colors combine to create a grace and beauty which is more than its parts. Here each of us receives gifts we had not wisdom to ask for and here each of us offers gifts we did not know were ours to give.
If you have brought a flower this morning, we invite you now to select a flower–different from the one you brought–that particularly appeals to you. As you take your chosen flower–noting its particular shape and beauty–please remember to handle it carefully. If you did not bring a flower this morning, we invite you to take a flower because the world is bright and bountiful and life is not defined by reciprocity, because you are part of our community and you enrich our lives. It is a gift that someone else has brought to you. It represents that person’s gifts, and therefore deserves your kindest touch.
In this world, all things are connected and interconnected. These flowers are made of star-stuff. We, too, are star-stuff, carrying in ourselves the same life that struggled out of the sea and learned to love. The flowers and we are gifts from the stars and the fragile bridge across which life moves into whatever the future will be. Rejoice this morning in earth and sky, in flower and tree, in life and the living of life.