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I know many of you are gardeners. I have no talent for that sort of thing (as my wife will attest) - I work well from the neck up, but when it comes to hands and knees, forget it. But I can TALK, and this morning I come bringing you a good word about...petunias.
I have found that gardeners are eager to show azaleas, roses, and lilies, but I have never had anyone invite me to look at petunias. Flower shows feature the earliest tulip to the last poinsettia, but I have never seen exhibits of the petunia. Brides carry flowers ranging from edelweiss to lilies of the valley, but no bride would consider carrying a petunia. Everyone ignores the petunia, but the bloomin' thing goes right on blooming. The time has come to appreciate it.
Flowers remind me of people, and a group of people has about as many varieties of "plants" as does a garden. Every group has "roses" which demand to be handled with care, to be caressed with kid gloves to avoid pain and hurt. And it is often a joy to see a few "roses" growing among the thorns. Every group has a few "azaleas" which produce only if soil and sunshine are to their liking, and show spectacularly for a while, then fade into the background. Every group has its "iris" which will rot if not constantly in the sunshine. The list is endless: from the "asters" that wilt to the "snapdragons" that rust, from the shrinking "violets" to the stubborn "glads." There is the regal "chrysanthemum" that stands out in a crowd and fits into a situation only if in command, and the tender "morning glory" which blooms at the beginning of a day but fades at noon. Every variety of people needs some special attention to make it bloom---except the "petunia." For petunias, just planting them is enough.
Perhaps you can begin to understand why "petunias" are so dear to my heart. They are those folks who go right on doing their part without any special attention. No one fusses over them, pampers them, or cultivates them. No one praises them for their dependability or loyalty (although that would surely be deserved).
But, like the petunia in the garden, they do not seem to mind. They contribute their effort without expecting to win a blue ribbon. They give of their beauty without begrudging the demands of others. They cause no trouble, create no commotion. Like the petunias, they just keep blooming the best they can.
It takes all kinds of people to make this world. Every pastor knows that some varieties will always need special attention to help them bloom. We expect that. There are always those who need extra encouragement and those who want to be recognized for every deed. There are always those who want to feel important. This is all in a day's work. But when the day is finished and perhaps has been especially difficult and disappointing, there rises from the quiet of a pastor's heart this simple prayer, "Dear Lord, thank you for the `petunias'!"
Once Jesus talked of the beauty of flowers. Do you remember? "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these."(3) If the occasion had arisen, I suspect Jesus might, on some other day have said, "Consider the petunias. They are special."
Yes, there are some whose understanding of religion involves the expectation of great things. That has been true since ancient days. The scripture lesson asks, "With what shall I come before the LORD...burnt offerings, with calves a year old?...thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? ...my firstborn?" No, none of that. "[God] has told you, O man [...and O woman], what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk HUMBLY with your God."
April showers bring May flowers. Now we are invited again to the Lord's Table...prepared for our nourishment, as always, by humble folks who labor without thought of recognition or reward..."petunias" in the beautiful portion of God's garden called the First Presbyterian Church of Warren, Pennsylvania. Come...and be fed...and think kindly of God's petunias.
1. Adapted from a PresbyNet note sent by Roland Wiederaenders, Clifton TX, 9/21/94
2. Lerner & Lowe, Camelot, 1960
3. Matthew 6:28-29