'Noticing the Flowers'

November 12, 2021
Cheyenne Boon, MDiv '23.
Cheyenne Boon, MDiv '23

Cheyenne Boon, MDiv '23, delivered the following remarks at Morning Prayers in Harvard's Memorial Church on November 12, 2021.


Good morning. Our  reading  for  this  morning is Counsel by Gregory Maguire.

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart, a strategy of continence, avoidance, mule-headedness, and hope. The next assassin, brush fire, or virus swerves this way, head-on collision. We see it coming and can't divert, the path too crowded with pilgrims. By the side of the road to Calvary blooms a mustard bush. It never means to do anything but propagate. It sees the centuries winnow themselves in and out, and hears itself appropriated for a parable. It keeps all these things and ponders them in its heart, while casting savior seeds generation after generation.

I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, in the job I had at the time, we would host these Zoom calls for people who were in our network doing the same kind of nonprofit work that we were doing. And these people were from across the country, and they knew each other, but not so well. And they were still having this sort of very similar and very stressful experience. And in these calls, we would have little check ins where we would ask people how they were doing. I think even then, people had a sense that the truth wouldn't really fit into this quick icebreaker.

So at that time, in March of 2020, people would say, "Well, I'm at home, I'm doing okay. But the thing that is really bringing me joy is that the trees are blooming, or the plants are sprouting up outside my house. And even though everything else seems unknown, the trees, they have these little buds, and I'm watching them turn into leaves." And I remember feeling that way too. When I walked through my neighborhood, it just felt like something hopeful was still there for us. And we knew it would be there when we walked out our doors in March and in April and in May of 2020, as we sort of realized together how long this was going to go on.

And I was wondering whether I should really talk about COVID today, because we've been doing this for a long time now. And in many ways, we're back. And even more than that, we're in a really different season. This is the autumn of 2021. And instead of sitting at my window, looking out at the trees blooming, I see leaves falling every morning when I walk to church or to school.

But as I suspect many of us do, I still feel the weight of the pandemic in my life most days. And something else to know about me and autumn is that I'm from Southern California. During my first winter away at college in Oregon, I said to one of my professors, "You see that bush? That bush has no leaves on it. And to me, that bush is dead." And she just looked at me and she said, "Well, you let me know how that turns out for you." None of you will be surprised to learn that the bush I saw as dead did in fact bloom again in the spring. And it seems like we can expect that miracle to happen again and again in each of the plants now, shedding its leaves outside.

And when that happens, I for one will get to breathe a sigh of relief that the life I feared was gone was really just waiting. A truth this poem is pointing us toward is that there are things in this world that will persist. Mercifully, they will persist. They will always be there. They will return every year. They will never really leave. And those persistent things probably have something to tell us about God. So as we all move to sort of hunker down for the winter, for the cold, for another anniversary of a long pandemic, waiting to see how things turn out in the spring, may we remember savior seeds and the ways that they grow for us and despite us, and our sometimes wavering hope, the ways that they grow for everyone and despite us all, and our sometimes wavering compassion.

Now please rise, in body or spirit, and let us pray. Gracious God, thank you for the things that save us, for the things that persist and demand to go on, regardless of our occasional heedlessness and our sometimes inability to see beyond our own time. Thank you for the daily miracles that reveal to us your eternal grace. Help us to notice all those seeds that you have planted for us, and all those seeds we could help along so that they might save someone else. Amen