God’s Heart: Gardening

Marissa Jadrich Ortiz — June 20, 2021

Good morning church, today we are going to spend some time together doing one of God’s favorite things to do:

Grow stuff out of the earth!

The people who wrote our Bible were constantly looking at the growing things around them for clues to what it can be like to belong to God.

They looked at flowers that only bloom for a day–and they told us, hey those flowers are kind of like us! They don’t last very long. But God makes them beautiful, God cares for them and gives them purpose.

They looked at the carefully tended grape vines–and they told us, hey, these vines are kind of like us! They can make some amazing grapes but they’re totally dependent on a connection to a caring gardener and nutrient-rich roots.

This is one of my favorites, from Jeremiah:

Happy are those who trust in the Lord,

    who rely on the Lord.

They will be like trees planted by the streams,

    whose roots reach down to the water.

They won’t fear drought when it comes;

    their leaves will remain green.

They won’t be stressed in the time of drought

    or fail to bear fruit.

Jeremiah looked at the kinds of trees that don’t seem bothered by extreme weather changes–and he tells us, that’s just the way it is for people who trust God! The people who go deep with God don’t get stressed out by hard times. They are sustained by God’s faithfulness and they always have something to give.

There’s another one I like from Psalm 96.

Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice!

Let the sea and everything in it roar!

Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate!

Then all the trees of the forest too will shout out joyfully,

before the LORD because he is coming!

He is coming to establish justice on earth!

He will establish justice in the world rightly.

He will establish justice among all people fairly.

This Psalmist looked around and saw the world acting like there’s a party going on–the sky is celebrating! Have you seen a celebrating sky? The sea is roaring! Have you heard a roaring sea! The trees are shouting joyfully! Have you heard a shouting forest?

And the psalmist says, this party is kind of like us when we experience God’s justice! Now that might seem a little counterintuitive, a justice themed party. And why is that something the trees would be excited about?

See somebody thinks God’s justice is all about right and wrong, innocent and guilty, punishment and reward. But the trees see it a little differently. They’re throwing this party simply because it’s really good news for everyone when God is in charge of the world! Any part of the world! All parts of the world! Our part of the world. Your part of the world.

God is a good gardener. And when a good gardener gets to work, that’s good news for everyone, because it means we’re going to thrive. That’s what God’s justice is about. It means God is the one in charge, and all the rest of us–plants and animals and people and powers–are connected to God and each other in ways that bring out the best in us. The best that God put in us and that God knows how to cultivate. Because that’s what good gardeners do.

Do you know what a good gardener does? Man, it is a LOT. Some of the stories Jesus tells would make you think a gardener just throws seeds at the dirt and waits. But guys, a good gardener cares a lot about the soil. They notice how much water and sun their plants get–is it enough, is it too much? They watch every stage of growth. Are the plants too close together, are there weeds to pull, are they lacking nutrients, do the vines need something to climb up or do the weak stems need extra support? What might be attacking the garden? Is it animals, bugs, other plants? How can the gardener protect the growing plants and fruit and flowers? And above all, gardening is really vulnerable. It’s so slow, there’s so much that could go wrong, and there’s no guarantee, after all that work, that you’ll have anything to show for it.

Maybe you’re wondering now why I am going on and on about gardening. Well I love talking about gardens. But here’s the thing, my friends. Some of us do not expect to “be gardened” by God. We think we’re on our own to handle the ups and downs of life with whatever resources we can find.

Some of us do not expect it to be good. When we think of being gardened by God, we might not picture a nurturing, careful hand coming all the way down into the dirt to help us find room to grow. Instead we might see a distant voice saying “you’re doing it wrong” or “I’m unhappy with your performance”. For me, this has been one of the gifts of trying my hand at gardening even when it hasn’t gone well. There are gardens that don’t grow, church, but there are no gardeners that don’t care. There are no gardeners that watch at arms length to see what they plants will do.

Here’s what I want for you today. I want you to just get a taste of how good it could be for God to be in charge. And how intimately God cares about you. We’re going to join for a moment this justice themed party that the seas and the forests are enjoying, by actually planting some flowers in our church garden.

You remember that I said gardening takes a lot of work and time, and even though we don’t have a lot of time this morning, the good news is that some of our gardening inclined members have already been here this week to do the difficult patient part of the work. They’ve pulled weeds, cultivated soil, mixed in some compost. So we’re just going to dig a little and put these seedlings in the ground. Then we’ll pull the mulch over it to keep the weeds down. As we’re planting, I want you to think about this: that God made you beautiful and purposeful even though you won’t last very long. That going deep with God is a source of sustenance and joy. That no matter what you do or don’t do, God is deeply invested in your abundant wellbeing in connection with others in the good world where God rules, and that is what Justice means.