This year the displays have been especially lovely, maybe because of the ‘dark’ times that Covid has presented us all with. But have you also noticed the vast array of sunflowers that have greeted shoppers entering Marks and Spencers, Tesco, Waitrose or those gardens touched by warm walls and long exposure to the sun. Now sunflowers have a lovely capacity to delight the eye of adult and child alike. Better still when they are growing in a large field, standing several feet tall, the land, a sea of yellow as far as the eye can see. You will notice that growing sunflowers confidently tilt their heads to always face the sun. Once fully grown they still maintain an eastward facing position.
The Christian church is no stranger to the significance of facing eastward for prayer and worship. It is rooted in ancient tradition—the Garden of Eden planted in the East (Genesis 2:8) and a belief that the Messiah would approach Jerusalem from the East. In the 2nd century, we know that both Syrian and Romanian Orthodox Christians hung a Christian cross on the eastern wall of their house, symbolising ‘their souls facing God, talking with him, and sharing their spirituality with the Lord’.
Perhaps the sunflower models a deep truth for us, that growth into maturity comes through orientation towards the sun’s light and warmth. As Christians we are called to prayerfully orientate our lives in the direction of the Son of God, whatever the weather. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written a recent book entitled ‘Looking East in Winter.’ It’s an evocative title. The winter of covid is not yet past, our lives may have held other ‘wintry moments’ in recent times, but let the sunflowers inspire us to keep ‘looking east’, to keep praying for the transformation of our lives and our world.
Written by an Elder
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The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.