A few years ago I was busy putting in an organic garden. We had a backyard sand volleyball court, bordered by railroad ties, that had gone unused for 17 years. Since it has been a goal of mine to get into organic gardening, I converted it to a garden. I’m from Indiana, and although I lived in the city, my mother had always successfully harvested vegetables she had planted in a small garden plot. Of course, she had the benefit of rich dark soil deposited by the retreating glaciers. I had caliche. And so, just the prep alone was effortful, rototilling in my compost from the past 12 years.
Despite expert advice from mentors, my first “harvest” was, uh, modest, to say the least. Subsequent years were improved. This year’s planting actually has me even more hopeful.
Like his father Joseph, Jesus was a carpenter, we’re led to suppose. Not a gardener. He used lots of metaphors and told many parables about good soil and bad soil and grains of wheat and chaff and vines and mustard seeds, but I don’t remember any real practical advice he gave like one might find in the Farmer’s Almanac. He spoke about the birds of the air and the foxes having holes but I don’t recall him saying anything about rabbits. Los conejos. They are my nemesis. We have several warrens of them, their tunnels emptying out of our woodpile (which is adjacent to my garden). I’ve always had a fond affinity for rabbits, bunnies. In kindergarten, our teacher Mrs. Edwards, chose me for the lead role of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, crawling into Farmer McGregor’s cabbage patch. Now I find myself in the role of Farmer McGregor. Rabbits have become my adversaries. I cannot look out or go out without a half dozen of them scampering away from the garden fence and its forbidden fruits. Wascally Wabbits.
Gardens, you know, figure significantly in the Bible. Scripture’s story of our life with God begins with the book of Genesis in Torah, and it begins in a garden. And, in the closing book of Revelation in the Christian scriptures, at the very end , there is reference made again to a garden-like place in the city, where the rivers run and where the tree of life stands, its leaves for the healing of the nations.
And healing of the earth. The realities of climate change root us back into the earth as a living organism upon which all life depends for sustenance. In a world where hungry and homeless folks people our sidewalks and tug at our emotions, why not roll up sleeves and get down and dirty and share whatever good fortune in harvest we have with our neighbors in need?
If “garden” can serve as a metaphor for a place where God meets us as we are, how does your garden grow? Have you prepared such a place, tended it, weeded it of unwanted distractions, protected it from would-be adversaries? It takes effort, at times, and diligent care, to keep a promising and fruitful place for the Spirit to work its alchemy of bringing forth life from the dust and dormancy of the everyday. But it also brings reward. A special part of any harvest is the health and sustenance it brings to grateful recipients.
How does your garden grow? And how does it get shared with others?
by Rev. Steven Davis