Reflection for the Month

From The Vicarage . . . 


"The kiss of the sun for pardon,

  The song of the bird for mirth:

  You're nearer God's heart in a garden

  Than anywhere else on earth."

I always enjoy winding up one of my Anglo-Catholic friends by quoting this verse! He objects to the quality of the poetry; but most especially, to the theology behind it. He argues that you are closest to God in the Blessed Sacrament and in the Holy Scriptures. He may have a point.

And yet, I suspect that this little verse expresses how many of us feel when we spend time in our gardens. Our present house is the fifth Vicarage I have lived in, and it is the first place that has had a substantial garden. For the first time in my life I have been able to grow vegetables-with varying degrees of success. My colleague, Prebendary Paul Barnes is a great source of advice based on his years of experience caring for his allotment.


Most years we grow the usual things - runner beans, potatoes, courgettes, broad beans and tomatoes. And each year I try something different as an experiment. We have recently finished the sweetcorn (not a huge crop) I am hoping that the parsnips and sprouts will be on the table for Christmas day.


I find that working in the garden is totally absorbing. It is good exercise of course, and a few hours weeding and digging leaves you feeling better mentally and physically. But the "feel good factor" goes deeper than this.  There is something about growing things that re-connects you with the natural world. It is such a basic human thing to grow the food you eat and to feel the soil in your hands.  In the modern largely urban world, we are mostly removed from this process. Growing your own food puts you in  touch with the seasons and the natural cycles of the year.

But being close to the soil, as are those in our parishes who still work in farming, is a constant reminder of the mystery at the heart of the natural world. I still get a sense of wonder when I eat the tomatoes that had started off as a tiny seed. Perhaps, for this reason, some of the poets, such as Wordsworth, seemed to identify God and nature as one and the same.  The scriptures take a rather different view. We see in the Bible that the world is brought about by the life giving energy of God. He is present in his creation, though distinct from it.

At Harvest time, as we recall our stewardship of this amazing world, and our duty to the poor and hungry, let us also recapture that sense of wonder that we find in the Scriptures. May we sense the presence of God in the world around us. The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, believed that God reveals something of himself in creation. His most famous poem begins, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God...." This Harvest time, may we celebrate the presence of God all around us.

Stephen Carter