Did you know that Easter lilies bloom in the fall? The only reason that they bloom at Easter time is because we put them in hot houses and fool them into thinking that it’s summer in the middle of winter.
Last Easter at First Lutheran Church, we had our usual Easter lily garden. In recent years there have been fewer plants, but it is still an impressive sight. Most the lilies are taken home by the people who brought them for the worship services, but every year there are three or four that are left at the church. This past year those three or four plants were replanted in the courtyard as part of the flower beds there.
Within a few weeks all of the lily plants looked like they were going to die, and in fact, they did all die! Turned brown, fell over, looked dead – but then they all came back! They grew new leaves, fresh green stalks and after a few months even started growing blooms again. We figured that nothing would come of it, it was, after all, late in September before the buds started and we usually get at least one really hard freeze in Colorado in the beginning of October.
The freeze never came. The warm fall weather never broke and the buds kept developing. It was into November and the highs were still in the 60s or even 70s and the buds were growing bigger by the day. Then, on November 10 the weather changed. The temperature fell nearly 20 degrees in about 2 hours, and the snow was coming. The weather changed from highs in the 70s to lows below zero in a day, and there was no way that the lilies would survive outside, so we cut the stalks and brought the buds inside. We put them in water and waited.
One opened, then another, then two more! Four Easter lilies were blooming – almost 2 weeks after being cut from the plants, after living through an amazingly warm fall in northern Colorado, after dying the early heat of summer and growing new green, after blooming in time for Easter Sunday – and they were blooming on Christ the King Sunday.
Christ the King Sunday is, in my experience, the least noticed Festival of Christ Sundays. We all know the big two, Christmas and Easter. Many people also know the Baptism of Our Lord (near Epiphany), and many people also talk about their “mountain top” experiences on Transfiguration. Christ the King, though, always seems to make people slightly uncomfortable. Who is this King? Do we want a King? Why are we talking about the End Times? Who are sheep are who are goats? Christ the King Sunday, though, is strongly linked to Easter and Holy Week. It is a moment of Easter for us. We hear how we must die to this world to be born into the next.
So I think about these lilies and what they have been through. Life, death, rebirth, the trials of fall weather, a narrow escape from the deep freeze and here they are celebrating Christ with us on the last Sunday of the church year.