"The Way of Love - The Rhythm of the Sunflowers"
Figure out how you can every day turn your life like a flower turning toward the sun.
turn your life in the direction of God’s love.
So, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church coaxes us on the Way as hopeful, intentional followers of Jesus’ Way of love, compassion, and mercy, leading to peace. A Way that calls us to a turning, calls us to moving in a cycle in which we are most fully open to absorb the warmth and grace offered if we seek it, if we let ourselves receive it.
Like a flower turning toward the sun, words out of which a particular vision arises: a field of sunflowers at Sabine Hall farm, rows upon rows, dozens, hundreds, thousands. Their turning so subtle that I would have had to stand there over time during at least one full cycle of daylight and starlight, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, sunrise to sunset, moonrise of reflected sunlight to its setting to take in the fullness of the sunflowers’ motion. Rooted in rich soil, the sunflowers were. Stalks strong, leaves green and healthy from the earth, sun, and rain’s nurturing. Crowns of gold surrounding a rich center of seeds forming. Seeds which would in the fullness of their time, when loosed upon the world around them, offer nourishment to many creatures or when falling back into the soil, assure the coming of another generation of their kind.
It is described as a mystery: why and how sunflowers follow the sun. Mystery is to be honored and respected. But we have a human desire to delve into the mystery of things, to try and understand what is at the heart of what appears mysterious and unknown. What emerges from dwelling on this mystery is the revelation that sunflowers have an internal rhythm. A kind of internal mechanism which stirs the plant to roughly follows a rhythm attuned to light. Kind of like the circadian rhythm that mirrors the waking/sleeping, night/day rhythms which stir our daily human cycle of life motions.
In a 2016 article published in Science magazine, the why of sunflower motion is explained in terms of this internal rhythm. The article’s author offers a description of this rhythm observed in the motion of the sunflower. The sunflower’s “behavioral changes” are “tied to an internal clock that humans also have, which follows a roughly 24 hour cycle. A young flower faces east at dawn and greets the sun, then slowly turns west as the sun moves across the sky. During the night, it slowly turns back east to begin the cycle again.” This motion is accomplished by a subtle but definite almost infinitesimal to the human eye lengthening of the stalk. This motion not only assuring a longer time for the growing plant to absorb light but assuring its growth towards its mature optimal height. What is further interesting is that “mature” sunflowers begin to respond differently to the sun. As they reach their optimal height (maturity) their growth slows down, and their internal mechanism shifts to ensure that the plant reacts more strongly to light earlier in the morning than in the afternoon or evening. The mature plant gradually stops its continual turn westward during the day but absorbs sunlight more deeply from morning to mid-day when light is emerging and moving towards its peak.
From youth to maturity, a gradual shift from continual motion to a deeper, more deliberate stillness to absorb the light. A shift to stimulate the growth, not of stalk, but of the ultimate fruits of growth, the seeds to be offered to the world around the living plant. An internal rhythm designed to stimulate optimal growth and fruition.
We are called to turn our life to the Light. Guided by an internal rhythm embedded in our body, soul and spirit from our beginning emerging out from the dark womb whose rhythms when we have reached our time to enter the world, push us into it. A first cry of birthing, a first opening of our eyes. And a turning towards the embrace of love to cradle us as our eyes, so shortly sighted at first, seek the first love, open move and more, seeking light, turning, turning, yearning for its warmth and nurture. A day after day after day cycle – a rhythm of life implanted in us from the beginning.
The Way of Love, we will be exploring in our congregational life over a cycle spanning approximately seven weeks, mirrors the forming of God’s creation over a metaphorical seven days. Seven, a number symbolically offering a vision of completion, with God resting on the seventh day after day by day creating aspects of a world, created “good.” But we know from the stories told and retold in the Scriptures we call the Bible, and from the life stories of creation all around us, and from our own lives in their cycle of turning and returning with our Creator, we know that Divine Creator of it all really never rests. That the Divine is always calling to us in our cycle of turning round and round till we re-turn to the waiting Light.
Now, let us TURN together and share this journey of growth towards Light together along the Way of Love. The video offered below is a beginning to stir our spirits and encourage our turning towards The Way of Love. Following the video is a linked in explanation of how our journey can unfold – an explanation of the seven themes of The Way of Love. And try to join us this Sunday for the experience of a Liturgy of Baptism (outdoors at Sabine Hall 9 a.m. or for our Sunday morning Zoom service) and a return to Holy Communion.
Let’s begin again . . . starting today!