Good Things Take Time
A homily for Flower Communion Sunday
Rev. Douglas Taylor
May 27, 2018
When our youngest was still a wee child we had a game called Don’t Break the Ice. The mechanics of the game are like Jenga – players take turns removing a block of ice from the structure with little plastic hammers. You lose if the whole field of ice collapses while you are trying to chip out your single ice block. It is important to this anecdote that you know the set up for this game is rather involved. I had to flip the little playing table upside down, wedge the plastic ice blocks into place, turn the playing table right side up again and then attach the figure skating person onto the ice blocks. It is important to this anecdote that you know it took longer to set up the game than it took to play it – especially with an exuberant toddler holding a little plastic hammer. And, you should know – one could rarely play the game only once, it was more like a dozen times … minimum.
I don’t know what lessons my young child learned from this simple game. Maybe something about being careful when ice skating, but I doubt it. For myself, I received a reminder of the old aphorism: it is easier to tear down than to build up. Many of us learned this lesson or re-experienced it with sand castles built at low tide, card houses set up around curious cats, or simply observing the construction work at the interchange of 81 and 17 these past few years – the demolition crew took out a bridge in one afternoon; the construction crew can never be so speedy.
Good things take time. Consider the flowers or even the mere blade of grass. It is, as Whitman reminds us, “no less than the journeywork of stars.” All that effort and energy poured from the universe through a blade of grass and here I mutter about the hour it takes me to cut all that grass around my house. How long did it take that grass to get there? Good things take time.
Before I go any further, I offer two caveats. The universe is alive and thriving only because it has both life and death. “A time to build up and a time to tear down” they say in Qohelet. The growth of flowers and the cutting or picking or plucking of these flowers is not to be divided into a good part and a bad part. Life and death are of a whole, as are growth and decay, building up and tearing down.
Pat Montley, a UU Pagan and the author of the litany we read earlier this morning, says this:
The wheel of the year turns. Seasons change. Darkness gives way to light, which wanes into darkness. Birth and death and birth and death and birth. Each has its season, and each season is a necessary part of the whole. It is the way of nature. Let us embrace it with faith.
When I say “Good things take time,” singing praise to community and flowers and life – I do not mean to say that spring and new life are the only things to be considered ‘good.’ That is my first caveat. Yes, life and death are of a whole and are good and they belong to each other. And yet, today I would sing to you of life and tell you “good things take time.”
My second caveat is to bow for a moment to the good things that do not take much time. It does not take long, for example, to say the words “I love you.” Indeed, if you take too long in saying these words it gets a little weird. “I-iiiiiiiiii … Lllllloooooo-oooooooooo – ” it just gets a little weird. There are good things in life that do not take much time. A smile, an epiphany, that second cup of coffee in the morning, … I understand skydiving is, on average, about one minute of freefall and five minutes after the parachute has opened. Really – not that long when you think about it. So, yes. There are good things that do not take much time. I’m not saying only good things take time or that all good things take time. Just – consider the good things that take time. Today I would have us think about relationships and community, gardens and the journeywork of stars.
Good things take time. In the story (City Green by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan) the neighbors pull together and create a garden out of an empty lot that was on the edge of being a dump. And the line, “Good things take time,” is not referring to the seeds and the time it takes for them to bloom into “strawberries, carrots, tulips, daisies and more!” Instead it is referring to a character in the story who holds back, who does not join in the neighborhood gardening at first. Some people take time to bloom. Some people ease their way into life.
We are creating a garden here each Sunday. We have gardens throughout this building and we send seeds and good soil home with people every day. That’s what this Family Ministry is all about … this is what our mission as a congregation is all about: gardening.
There is a playful little story I heard long ago. The town vicar is walking past a man working in his garden and stops to admire the beauty. “Ah, Mr. O’Malley, you and God are doing some fine work together in this garden.” To which Mr. O’Malley replies, “Thank you, truly, vicar. But between you and me, you should have seen the place when God had it alone.”
Nature is extravagant and exuberant and does nothing by halves. With very little help, our gardens and our spirits will bloom and blossom in a riot of color and scent. Beauty abounds. And … it is possible and, I argue, good to take a hand in shaping what grows in our gardens.
Our congregation has proclaimed our mission to be about offering “a spiritual home” in three particular ways. (We offer a spiritual home where we explore, celebrate and cherish our interconnectedness, encourage growth and transcendence, and act with justice and compassion.) The first two are through celebrating our interconnectedness and encouraging growth. It is possible to interpret these points as ‘allowing life to bloom where it will.’ We are called by our mission to notice, to celebrate, to encourage. The final point of the three ways we offer a spiritual home is in acting “with justice and compassion.” And this I hear as a call to take a hand in shaping what grows in our gardens.
Our community is a garden worthy of the time we spend tending it. The bounty of our garden grows both beautiful and nourishing by our care. And good things take time. Plant some seeds, there will be time for us to water and weed – to share in the free and responsible search together.
And to muddle this metaphor even more: we are the gardeners and we are the garden. We share with the Spirit of Life, with God, with the “upward thrust of life” in creating this garden of ours – this garden of us. Consider the flowers, these stunning sparks of the universe; they are nothing less than the journeywork of stars. It took time to for these flowers to get to this table. It has taken you some time to get this day. Good things take time.
So, come, take up your gardening tools, join in the work, enjoy the beauty, nourish what is around you with justice and with compassion. What a beautiful bouquet of people we are!
In a world without end,
May it be so.