I love to see the sunflower growing in my neighbour’s garden. I can’t look at its sunny disposition and not smile. When we lived in Turkey we used to see whole fields of sunflowers. They need lots of sun! Not only do they look like the sun but they lift their heavy seed-laden heads and follow the sun throughout the day. It’s fascinating to drive past fields and see row upon row of these yellow faces upturned to the sun as it travels across the sky.
We are called Christians because we follow Christ, and the closer we follow the more we become like him. We’re like sunflowers, but not following the sun in the sky; we’re following the Son of God. He says to us, “Let me see your face, let me hear your voice.” (Song of Songs 2:14) and as we behold him we are changed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Seeds of Promise
“Eylenje! Eylenje!” (Enjoyment! Enjoyment!) That’s what the street seller calls out as he pushes his barrow heaped with sunflower seeds. Nibbling seeds together is an enjoyable pastime in Turkey and on summer evenings groups of young people gather in the parks to sit and chat. In the morning the ground is covered with husks!
Jesus tells us that the seed is the Word of God. It points to himself, the promised living Word. Are we like sunflowers bursting with seeds? What are the Words of Promise that both challenge and comfort our hearts? Do we find enjoyment gathering together, sharing biblical truths? David says the Word tastes sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103).
In Turkey most of the seed harvest is crushed for the precious sunflower oil to be exported far and near. Oil is a symbol the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit. The night he was betrayed, Jesus wrestled in prayer in the Garden on the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means ‘oil press’ and as his sweat fell like blood, Jesus was surely being pressed. As he bore the weight of the sins of the world on the cross, grace like oil flowed from him. Love oozed through the words he spoke:
Mercy : “Father forgive them.”
Hope : “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise.”
Care : “John, look after my mother.”
Obedience : “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Longing : “I thirst.”
Faithfulness : “It is finished”
Trust : “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When we are pressed, when life doesn’t go as we would like, when prayers don’t seem to be answered, when we feel we are suffering injustice, does the oil of his Spirit flow?
Once we were driving past a sunflower field at dusk. The sun was going down, setting in the west. We were surprised and intrigued to find that every flower had turned to face the opposite direction. They were no longer watching a fading glory. No, in absolute confidence, they were facing east, heads down as if prayerfully waiting for the new day to dawn. Expectant, sure they wouldn’t be disappointed. The sun would rise again!
As we come to the end of the summer and the pandemic drags on, let’s not become weary and lethargic but prayerfully expect God to surprise us with fresh vision. Let’s continue to follow the Son and be ready to embrace new things he may want to do in us and through us, individually and together where possible. God is our sun and shield (Psalm 84:11). He is our light, our life and our protection – everything we need to flourish in his field. From the rising of the sun till its going down, the Lord’s name is to be praised (Psalm 113:3).
* For more tales from Turkey, my book ‘You Will See Hoopoes‘ is now available on Kindle from Amazon.