If your life is a garden, what’s growing in it?
Imagine your life as a garden. What does it look like? What special care does it need? What do you love about it? What do you feel like is missing? What do you do to care for it? What are the challenges and struggles?
Hopefully you feel pretty good about your garden, but also, if we’re honest, we have to admit we could probably use a little bit of help with our garden as well. There are probably our share of weeds. Like the examples Jesus uses: it’s probably rocky soil at times, other times overgrown with briars and thorns. At times in life, our garden might even seem beyond hope of planting seeds that will bear life giving fruit.
Good news. Today we hear that God is a master gardener who plants seeds abundantly and tends to our gardens. So if your life, errr… garden doesn’t seem altogether, take a deep sigh of relief. Jesus came to save. Not to condemn. Jesus came to plant seeds, not tear them out. Jesus comes to tend our garden, not destroy it.
It’s summer time and that means our readings are full of images of gardening and growing as symbols of new life and the work of God in our midst. God is busy tending our garden, even as we are busy tending both metaphorical and actual gardens as well.
It’s good to live in the garden state. If Jesus had lived only a couple thousand years later, I’m sure there would have been the parable of the Jersey Tomato. And we don’t have to go to far to find an example of a literal garden: right in our own backyard (at St Mark). Many of you know the reality of what goes into growing a garden from seeds: the work it takes to tend a garden, the knowledge, the amount of care.
Here in New Jersey, we know how to grow a garden from seeds. If you look at our Advent Community Garden, you’ll see a level of expertise, that frankly is impressive. We know how to build raised beds. We know how to deal with soil and fertilizer, we know how to do crop rotation, how to care for sprouted seedlings, how to water (and some of you are getting creative with your garden watering methods)! We know how to build fences to keep the adorable bunnies out. Basically, we know how to cultivate the perfect garden conditions for seeds to grow. And believe it or not, many of the plants out there started as seeds.
Contrast this with the method of the sower in the parable. She goes out and just starts throwing seeds around, I believe the term is “willy-nilly.” This parable would be like Isles sending us all the seeds for our garden, and we just go throw them around the parking lot and expecting a garden to grow. Sorry, but that would be stupid. This gardener looks rather stupid. Seriously. Seeds on pavement.
But remember: what seems foolish to us is wisdom in God’s kingdom.
I usually read this parable as if Jesus is the sower. He comes to plant seeds of life. To sow the word of God. And when this seed takes root, when it grows, the garden is full of the gifts of faith and hope and love. There is the kingdom of God. And I don’t know about you, but I think the world could always use more faith, hope, and love.
But Jesus explains that there are very real challenges to that. The seed doesn’t always take root. The kingdom doesn’t always seem to flourish. Sometimes we look at our garden, and we don’t seem to find any faith, hope, or love. Other priorities and temptations draw us away from tending to our garden. Sometimes the going gets so tough that fear and anxiety, or anger, or guilt or shame all choke out what God has planted in our garden. This makes me worry that when we read this parable, we have to make sure we fall into the “good soil” category of people. We start comparing our gardens to others. We say “mine’s better” or prettier, because I’ve been working harder on it. But I’m not so sure. Maybe we start to worry that our garden isn’t good enough.
Look, I get it. We want to be the good soil. It’s tempting to read this parable and assume we are, or need to be the good soil. But we’ve been every kind of soil Jesus describes at one time or another. There are times that faith, hope, and love seem to be all dried up. There are times when we seem all dried up, even though we desperately want God’s word to flourish in our lives.
But here’s the thing. The sower doesn’t care how good the soil is. The sower plants seeds everywhere. Whether your garden is all dried up and desolate, or the hanging gardens of Babylon. God plants the seeds of the kingdom there. The sower tends all of the soil, giving the seed everywhere, to every type. Almost carelessly throwing it around, but it’s actually an abundance out of love. That seed… That life giving word… That news that God loves you no matter what… it’s for everyone, no matter where you are in your life. No matter who you are. No matter what state your garden is in.
When I imagine my life as a garden, it’s full of hearty weeds and wildflowers. And it’s beautiful. It’s the kind of plants that can grow through the cracks in the pavement. The ones that grow against all odds, and despite how good or how lousy I am at tending my garden. It’s a reminder that faith, hope, and love can flourish in the most unlikely places. At the most unlikely times. Because we have a God that loves us abundantly and comes to tend our garden no matter what state it’s in.
These seeds that spring forth in unlikely places, in our less-than-perfect gardens. These are our God sightings. These are the places where we see God at work. In that sense, God grows the kingdom in our livens matter how much we think we have it together or how good we think we are doing. Our garden, our lives are worthy of the seeds of God’s kingdom despite what we think of them.
Sometimes our lives are fertile ground. Sometimes their rocky soil. No matter where you find yourself, you will find God, planting seeds of new life and love.