A visitor arrived unexpectedly in the manse garden last Friday as I was working on my Thanksgiving sermon. Most of the monarchs began their migration home to Mexico in late August, but this butterfly appeared the day after the first frost was most likely to have hit Toronto, (October 6). Instead of the first winter chill, we had a monarch. Amazing! While a part of me wondered if global warming isn't unhinging creation, I also couldn't get over its beauty. It had the glow of a sunrise as its winged dance led it from flower to flower. This ancient symbol of the resurrection arrived like a visitor from the other side, the day after we had conducted a memorial service for my colleague and friend, Deborah Ban. For just as what was once a caterpillar is raised out of its cocoon and transformed into a new creature, we too shall be raised up to new life in Christ. Winter and death will one day come, but we shall return to the garden of God. Thanks be to God.
I received the following note from Barbara McDougall O.C. who has been very involved in our refugee ministries and was also federal Minister of External Affairs; Employment and Immigration and several other portfolios during her years as a Member of the Canadian Parliament. I was encouraged, though not surprised, to receive her praise for the choir's singing last week at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England.
From Barbara McDougall O.C.
"I was in London last week, taking a few days timeout. I stayed in my favourite small hotel, owned and managed by the same family for four generations, conveniently located near Buckingham Palace, in case the Queen wanted me to drop in for tea. (She didn't call. Shucks.)
It is also within an easy walk of Green Park, on the Mall leading to the Palace, where there is a beautiful memorial to Canada's veterans and war dead. It is a subtle and elegant sculpture, very low key, sensitively rendered, and discreet, and I visit it every time I am in London. It is a reminder of to all of how special our country is, and to me that my father, coincidentally a deacon at Yorkminster Park in the late1940's, was based in London for nearly three years during World War II and lived in Kensington, not far away. I recommend to every Canadian passing through London that this is a special memorial for us.
But last week's visit had a particular highlight: the evensong service at St Paul's Cathedral led by William Maddox and the Yorkminster Park choir. I attended two of the services, and have to pass on to you how beautifully the choir sang, and how superb the organ was at the hands of William Maddox. Although the cathedral is always full of tourists wearing baggy shorts and back packs, many of them walking back and forth and gazing upwards to the spectacular dome, oblivious to the fact that a service is going on, it was interesting that many paused to listen at least for a few minutes. And those who had managed to find a chair and stayed for the full service (only about 45 minutes,) were rewarded with an elegant liturgy - 400 years old according to the program - executed superbly, as one would expect, by the YP choir.
I'm sure there were other Yorkminster people and families there, although I didn't recognize anyone, but my purpose in writing this is to ask you to spread the word among the congregation how proud we can be of our splendid choir and its contribution to a great Christian tradition, and in a great historic place. And please tell the choir members too!"
I am partial to fridge magnets, but Janet prefers more serious souvenirs. Four years ago on a visit to the Carcajou Cherry Orchards on the edge of picturesque Summerland, B.C., Janet fell in love with an unusual poppy which she wanted to take with her as a keepsake. Of course the idea was crazy. Chances are the delicate little flower which seemed to grow wild in the orchard wouldn't have survived a transplant from one end of their garden to another, let alone one end of the country to the next. We didn't take the poppy with us, but we did drive off with a pretty nice bag of cherries.
The Carcajou Orchard was a special place because it was where Jessica and Alex worked each summer after they finished tree planting in northern B.C. A few months after our visit the owners of the orchard, Keith and Jan Carlson, arrived in Toronto for Jessica and Alex's wedding and presented Janet with a tiny momento of our visit tucked inside an envelope. Needless to say it wasn't a fridge magnet, but a pocket full of poppy seeds of the Bombast Rose variety, and each year since, there have been more and more poking through the ground in our Toronto garden and as they bloom we can't help but think back to that beautiful spot where the cherries grow from down on the shores of Lake Okanagan to halfway up Giant Head Mountain, and where the fruit tastes so sweet that even in the winter they call the town Summerland.
Grace and Peace
watching the water below.
He is waiting for prey
It's just nature's way.
to teach us not fear
but to watch and to pray,
day after day after day.
"How's your summer been?" I asked a young college student from down the street whom I hadn't seen since the late spring. "Great so far," he replied. I liked his answer as he was not only positive about what has already unfolded, but still looking ahead to so much more. As the shorter evenings become more noticeable we can lament the loss of summer and fail to notice summer's beauty continuing to burst into bloom.
Summer is a time to slow down, breathe deeply of the splendour all around, and give thanks. I am so blessed each day by new blooms in the garden with their delicate petals, intricate designs and rich bright colours. And of course I am blessed by my children who kept it watered while we were away. Each flower is a call to wonder and gratitude.