Service at First Church on June 6, 2002 by Rev. David Hutchinson


OPENING WORDS

"Petals"

We look
and are surrounded by flowers this morning

The delight of Spring
a splash of color
and anticipation of a long summer ahead of us
travel plans
evenings at the lake
lemonade sipped slowly in our backyards

drinking in life
ALL OF IT
ALL WE CAN POSSIBLY HOLD

		THIS LIFE


Pick me flowers
and giggle in the sunshine

and Iíll have a flower for you
and weíll lose track of them all

	petals gently falling down
	floating in the aroma of love
				       peace
					 and livingÖ

	Donít go outside your house to see the flowers.
	My friend, donít bother with that excursion.
	Inside your body there are flowers.
	One flower has a thousand petals.
	That will do for a place to sit.
	Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
	inside the body and out of it,
	before gardens and after gardens.

					- Kabir

	Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf.
					
					- Lewis Mumford
DOWN THE AISLE OF INTERIOR FLOWERS
If anyone has driven around Boston lately and experienced "The Big Dig", then you know what Mumford is talking about!!

One of my favorite skits from the old Monty Python Show is "The Cheese Shop". (Maybe some of you remember it) A customer walks into a small cheese shop, the owner is behind the counter and behind him is a wall lined with shelves that extends to the ceiling. The first thing that you notice is that the shelves are completely empty. (Itís like walking into a Dunkin Donuts and there are no donuts on the rack!!) The clerk is cheerful, greets the customer and asks him what kind of cheese he would like. The customer names one and the clerk says, "Sorry, Iím afraid weíre out of that." He names a second cheese only to get the same response. This pattern continues in typical Monty Python manner, which includes a very runny cheese that the cat just ate, and several interesting varieties (that I have not tried) such as Japanese Sage Darby and Venezuelan Beaver Cheese. At this point the customer becomes noticeably annoyed and says,

"Itís not much of a cheese shop is it?!"
	"Finest in the district," says the clerk.
	"Can you explain the logic underlying that conclusion please?"
	"Well, itís so clean sir."
	"Itís certainly uncontaminated by cheese!!  Have you in fact, got Any cheese here at all?"
 	"No, not really sir.  No sir, not a scrap.  I was deliberately wasting your time sir."
The rest of the skit deteriorates from here. You can ask me about it this afternoon at the BBQ if youíre really that curious.

What Iíd like to do with this image - is instead of a cheese shop, think of a flower shop. Kabir says that each of us have interior flowers and that one flower has a thousand petals. We are a congregation of many different flowers and weíll celebrate that diversity in our flower communion today. But each of us are also a flower shop and each of our shops have a lot of shelf-space to fill. What I appreciate about this congregation is the personal attention and energy allocated to spiritual development. Martha Newman once told me she had worked with numerous congregations during her ministry, but she had not worked with a church like Houlton that was so intent on spiritual growth.

This is the stocking of the shelves.
It is the watering of the plants and the re-potting of them.
And itís the having something to offer someone else when they walk in the front door of our shop.
After Sept 11, itís become more difficult to be truly open to everyone. We feel as if we need to draw lines somewhere in order to protect ourselves from violence and terror. Enemies have taken a specific name once again, and itís difficult to offer flowers to the enemy. But I believe that that is what we are asked to do in the highest of religious traditions; a universalism that excludes none, a compassion that encompasses all in some manner. This may seem like an impractical view at a time like this, but Thomas Merton once said,
"A marginal view is the obligation of the serious practitioner.
	 Perspectives refined by their distance from society are essential
	 To the health of the community."
We live in a concrete-culture of traffic cloverleafs and life-less thought, where plastic flowers sell remarkably well. But on the inside we can walk down the aisle of interior flowers,
and think for ourselves -
	to see the flowering of ideas
	and cultivate a sentiment for this world 
	that is deeply felt and actively displayed 
	in the flower shop of our life.
CLOSING WORDS
WAL-MART FLOWERS

How can a person ever get tired of flowers?
It is endless pleasure.

How can the world ever have too many flowers?
It is an endless garden.

And the world turns
and it spins again
and the flowers hold on
except for the plastic ones sitting on the edge of department store shelves.

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