Pause for thought: “Light of the World”,
When you live in a country where it rains a lot like we do, when the sun comes out, you really appreciate it don’t you? The experts tell us that 2022 has been a notably long, dry and sunny summer, and if I’m honest the older I get, the more I dread the autumn and winter as the nights draw in and the warmth in the sun begins to ebb away.
Every year I find myself increasingly looking forward to that first day after a long winter when you can once again feel a trace of warmth in the Spring sunshine, and, almost instinctively, you turn your face towards it.
And that’s why I love sunflowers so much. Sunflowers are amazing! They anticipate daybreak, much like a cockerel might anticipate the dawn before it starts to crow. At sunrise, sunflowers face east to greet the first rays of the sun, and they continue to move with the sun throughout the day until it sets in the west. Then overnight, the sunflower head swings back around so it faces east again at dawn ready to meet the rising sun and do it all over again!
It’s called heliotropism. Helio refers to the sun, and tropism refers to movement, so heliotropism describes the movement that plants like sunflowers make when they track the sun.
Experiments have shown that if sunflowers in a field are turned 180 degrees, they continue to move during the day, but now in a west-to-east direction, opposite to the sun. After several days though, the sunflower corrects itself to move east-to-west again. During this time, the sunflower retunes it’s internal clock.
Even on the darkest and dullest of days, if the sun shines even briefly, sunflowers lift up their heads to capture whatever sunlight might be on offer. They don’t waste a minute of it.
When we’re going through difficult times, those shafts of sunlight, however brief, are invaluable. They will be different for all of us of course. They may take the form of the embrace of a partner, the hug of a friend, an unexpected text, letter or phone call, or even the kindness of a stranger. But they make a difference.
When I read John 8:12 where Jesus declared himself to be the I often picture that in terms of a shaft of sunlight that never gets hidden or eclipsed by the clouds. And whenever I turn my face to him … whenever … wherever … I see the light and feel a warmth like that first sunshine kiss of springtime.
Much has been said about the passing of Her Majesty the Queen in recent days, and I don’t necessarily want to add to that. But through our time of national mourning, I was struck by how often her deep Christian faith was discussed. It felt like a genuine shaft of sunlight in the darkness, and the final service of a Queen whose ultimate duty was to serve the King of Kings.
Revd Chris Burr