Sunday, November 28, 2021

Outdoor Object Lesson 113: Church Flowers - What’s the Point?

“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,”

Luke 12:27 ESV

In nearly every Christian church around the world, including house churches, you can find flowers adorning the front on worship days. Why do we bring these articles of nature into our worship areas? Is there a biblical command to have flowers in our worship? Do they have some special meaning? 

Christian churches are not the only ones to use flowers or plants in their ceremonies. It is almost a universal tradition. Flowers have decorated sacred sites of numerous religions including the heathen for millennia. Christians have not always practiced this now ubiquitous tradition. Early Christians shunned such adornment because it was seen as decadent and vane. Roman culture heaped flowers on the rich and famous. Roman champions, generals, and caesars wore wreaths of flowers on their heads as a symbol of honor. 

Thus many early Christians shunned the use of live plants in their worship to demonstrate humility and simplicity. Jesus was a God for the common and poor.1 After Constantine declared Christianity the national religion of Rome, Christian churches made less effort to distinguish themselves from pagans. Ambrose of Milan, a church father who lived in the fourth century, first associated the rose with Mary mother of Jesus. Across the intervening years, roses grew in prominence in Catholic Churches to the point that most now have a Rosery window. Later a traditional prayer called the Rosery also became popular.2

By the Middle Ages, Christians frequently placed flowers in their homes and places of worship.3 The art of arranging flowers in vases became common at this time.4,5 With the Reformation came an increased prominence of flowers in many churches. Much of the ceremonial accouterments were thrown out of Protestant churches including candles and ornate figures and art because they were seen as gaudy. Flowers became the main choice to adorn the sanctuary. After all, this was art created by God’s own hand.6

But why have flowers? There is no command in the Bible to have flowers at worship. Still, flowers have long held deep symbolism for humans. Nearly every culture has gifted flowers at times of deep emotion. Death, birth, marriage, feast days, anniversaries are all occasions celebrated with flowers. They represent how we feel while adding a touch of beauty to the scene. 

For Christians, flowers are used in worship for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the sanctuary or meeting place is where we go to worship the Creator of the Universe. So we adorn this space in raiment worthy of his majesty. These flowers are an offering we bring before God as a token of our thanks and praise. Flowers require effort to grow or money to acquire, they need skill and time to arrange. God continually blesses our earth with beautiful flowers. It is only right we bring a small portion in return to Him as thanks. 

Flowers also serve to symbolize specific important aspects in our worship services. They are reminders of key biblical themes. At Christmas time many churches decorate with red flowers to signify the reason Jesus was born on earth, to shed His blood for our sins. During Easter white flowers are often placed in prominence to indicate the purity Jesus provided us by his death and resurrection. Lilies are often the flower of choice because in the Bible they represent simplicity and humility. So white lilies remind us of the humility of the pure Son of God hanging on the cross. 

The beauty of flowers serves an important role in our corporate worship. This quote sums up our purpose for flowers in church. “The beauties in nature are a theme for contempla­tion. In studying the natural loveliness surrounding us, the mind is carried up through nature to the Author of all that is lovely."—Testimonies, Vol. III, p. 377. - E.G. White

By David F. Garner

What is your favorite flower in church?

What does that flower represent spiritually to you?

What flowers would you like to plant in your heavenly home?

How will you make more time to spend contemplating God’s lessons in nature?