category: Musings, Sermon Starter

What’s Growing in Your Garden?

By Rachael Keefe

I am not a great gardener. I do best with plants that don’t need careful tending and can grow well without me. Wild flowers grow in my front yard and a few herbs and vegetables grow in containers and a small garden in my backyard. I’m never sure how much …

What’s Growing in Your Garden?

Image of daisies and other wild flowers behind a small white, wire fence in front of fence

I am not a great gardener. I do best with plants that don’t need careful tending and can grow well without me. Wild flowers grow in my front yard and a few herbs and vegetables grow in containers and a small garden in my backyard. I’m never sure how much or when to water and I can’t tell what’s a weed until the plants are a few inches tall. Yet, I love the idea of gardens and I’m more drawn toward the ones that feel more organic and have a bit of messiness to them. Neat, tidy rows of plants is just not my style. That isn’t to say that I am not thoughtful and intentional about what I want to grow.

When I worked as a psychiatric chaplain in a state hospital I led a lot of groups which often focused on spiritual and emotional wellness. A favorite was a group that I led each spring. I had purchased a number of flower seeds and renamed them for the qualities patients wanted in their spiritual and emotional gardens. The seeds would become things like kindness, laughter, wholeness, healing, friendship, love, forgiveness, hope, and so on. Thinking about these ideal gardens reminds me of Jesus’ “parable of the sower.” These are the kinds of seeds that sower would have sown without a care to the kinds of soil they were thrown onto.

Seeds of the Kingdom sown willy nilly as the sower walked through the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could do this. Instead of the fear and anger, destruction and division that is sown so often these days, we could sow seeds of God’s realm every where we go, with everyone we encounter. We are not responsible for how anyone receives the seeds; we are only responsible for the kinds of seeds we sow and the kinds of seeds we receive. We are both sower and soil, though I think it is time to pay attention to the seeds we share and the seeds we allow to grow in us.

Think of Jacob and Esau. Imagine how differently their story might have gone if their parents had sown seeds of division between them. What would have happened if the brothers shared their gifts with each other without demanding payment. Would they have learned from one another and become stronger? Would the history of Israel, our spiritual history be different than it is? It’s easy for us to say how foolish it is that Esau sold his birthright for some lentils and bread. However, we have sold our birthright as God’s beloved for things far less nourishing than lentils, haven’t we?

Our birthright as Christians is to live without condemnation, to live in joy and peace. Yet, every time we sow or accept seeds of hatred or division, we have given away bits of our birthright for what? To maintain the social norms established by previous generations? To hold onto the illusion of superiority? To protect our privilege? This is not what we are called to do or be. Unlike Esau, it may not be too late for us to reclaim our spiritual birthright. We have what we need if we trust God’s abundance over the temporary abundance made by human hands.

It is impossible to ignore that we are living in an era defined by fear and divisiveness. The U.S. government does not care about the citizens of this country who are vulnerable. The current Administration would like to convince us that people who have an increased risk for COVID-19 are to blame for their own vulnerability. The those who are poor are poor because they are lazy. The those who are elderly who cannot afford medications and healthcare didn’t plan appropriately for their retirement. Those with mental or physical illnesses are unimportant because they don’t contribute fully to society. We’ve all heard this kind of nonsense and more. However, just because the government favors white supremacy, ableism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and anything else that enables them to retain their wealth and stay in power, does not make it right or healthy for any of us to support. Moreover, as Christians we have no place participating in or benefiting from fear, hatred, and division. We are called to spread life-giving seeds, not seeds that choke the life out of people.

What you like to see blossoming in your own spiritual and emotional garden? What would you like to see thriving in the world around you? It is not too late for us to stop giving away our birthright for a flimsy, false sense of security. It is not too late to sow those seeds of life. If we focus on sowing the seeds of the Kingdom, then one day it might be possible for everyone to, as Isaiah says, to go in joy and return in peace.

RCL – Year A – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 12, 2020
Genesis 25:19-34 with Psalm 119:105-112 or
Isaiah 55:10-13 with Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Photos: CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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