I love sunflowers. At a recent lemonade on the lawn, a parishioner recalled her childhood in and around the cherry orchards in Northern Michigan. She reflected how the local area fields would periodically have a fallow year, allowing the nutrients in the soil time to recover
from the good work of growing a crop like corn or wheat. At some point along the way, someone began planting sunflowers during that fallow season which enriched the soil and bringing delightful beauty to the community. Having recently taken Wallace and Abbott to camp in that region, I could immediately picture the wonderful fields of sunflowers and I could feel the energy shift within me.
Sunflowers are so striking, especially in a field nearly as wide as one can see. I love their open faces with the sharp contrast between the deep black and the brilliant yellow. While my favorite part of sunflower crops is their visual beauty, they are useful in other ways as well. The seeds are healthful and delicious; the oil is excellent for cooking. And on top of all those benefits, crop rotation significantly improves the yield of all the crops in the rotation. No wonder my heart opens when I think of sunflowers. What’s not to like?
In thinking about sunflower rotation in our lives, however, I’m struck both by the power of change to awaken new possibility as well as the stirring up of some anxiety. As wonderful is our new home is, I find myself a bit unsettled at having to find new rhythms and patterns. I have to remember to laugh at myself for having to constantly retrace my steps for things I’ve forgotten as I have no ‘muscle memory’ and nothing is easily done. I realize I’m a little uncomfortable by the sheer volume of change in my life right now, even though it is change I desire and want and embrace.
In our Eucharistic prayer for this season, we pray that
the same Spirit that fills the bread and wine with the fullness of Jesus, rests on us, converting us from the patterns of this world until we conform to the shape of him whose food we now share.
That’s a big prayer! So often I think we take for granted our spiritual lives and maybe even minimize what living into this prayer on a daily basis might really mean. How might we intentionally invite sunflower seasons in our lives, individually and as a community, to break open the patterns and norms we may not even notice any longer, that we may see and experience afresh Jesus in our midst? How might we hold gently our inevitable discomfort even as we allow ourselves to be washed in the wonder and beauty of the Spirit’s efforts to conform us?
One of the things that intrigued me about the opportunity to spend this year as priest-in-charge of St. Elisabeth’s was the attitude of your rector, Daphne, and the wardens, Helen and Tom. Their vision for this year was exciting: here was an opportunity not to lie fallow but to intentionally embrace a season of difference, inviting the Spirit to assist us all to be open to new ways of seeing and living. Thank you for the invitation to share in St. Elisabeth’s sunflower season. I’m delighted!