Green, Growing Things

RCL – June 17, 2012 – Third Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 with Psalm 20 or
Ezekiel 17:22-24 with Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 or 2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

We are in the midst of the season of growing things. It seems that everything is green and blooming. Lots of people talk about gardening and how much they love it or how gardening is a spiritual practice. There is nothing spiritual in the doing of it for me. Moreover, I have to say that I do not love gardening but, rather, the idea of it. I love flowers and imagine my yard with flower beds and herb gardens and, maybe, a small vegetable garden. But, I can assure you that it will never happen. As much as I would like to say otherwise, I am a horrible gardener. I am allergic to most things that grow – the prettier they are, the harder I sneeze and the greener they are, the greater the need for benadryl. This wouldn’t necessarily stop me from planting bulbs and seeds and such if it were just allergies that got in the way of my horticultural dreams. However, I have an irrational fear of touching bugs unexpectedly (worms included) and an even less rational fear of snakes (even the harmless kind). So, instead of the glorious flower beds of my day dreams, I content myself with a few perennials, a few annuals, and an attempt at a wildflower bed.

The wildflowers are the problem at the moment. I probably planted the seeds too soon (early May) and now that things are about four inches tall, I cannot tell the flowers from the weeds (yes, I do know that wildflowers are weeds, also). There is the added problem of a creature or two (or more) living in the small, would-be flower bed. There are holes (snake size) and footprints (very fat groundhog size) that complicate my willingness to closely examine the little plants for the purpose of weeding out the unwanted ones.

So I have come to accept that I am a truly lousy gardener. But this does not get in the way of things growing. It amazes me where plants take root, sometimes. Leave a pile of dirt alone long enough, and plants spring up out of seemingly nowhere. Deep in the woods without a lot of sunlight, the surprising patch of violets adds a touch of purple to the greenery. How about the cracks in city side walks that sprout very large dandelions? Or the vines that cover buildings with lush green? I like these things growing in unexpected places with such tenacity. I find them all mysterious and hopeful, really. No matter what happens with weather – too much snow or not enough, too much rain or not enough, too cold or too hot, severe weather or mundane – the earth puts forth a huge effort to grow things.

These are the kind of thoughts I’ve been thinking lately as I go through my daily life. When I am appalled by what human beings can do to the planet and to each other, I appreciate the mysteries of this growing season. These small mysteries (or maybe they are big ones) also give me hope in a bigger way. I think there is something in the human spirit that is as tenacious as any plant that sprouts in unexpected places, or a weed that reveals magnificent blossoms just as I contemplate pulling it out.

In 1 Samuel the anointing of David reveals something about God doing the unexpected with the most ordinary of people. Both Ezekiel and Psalm refer to God making things “flourish,” even “the dry tree.” 2 Corinthians talks about everything  being made new in Christ. And, of course, the Gospel reading is about seeds growing and ripening – the tiny mustard seed that grows into a bush large enough for birds to nest in. If these seeds growing in such surprising plants symbolize the Kingdom of God, then I think this is the “seed” we all carry within us.

The Kingdom of God is evident when a community rebuilds after disaster and new life emerges from the rubble. The Kingdom of God is revealed in the voice of a Libyan singer who continued to sing his songs of rebellion even after he was imprisoned. The Kingdom of God is revealed when a people return to their homes after they are destroyed by war and begin the arduous task of rebuilding. The Kingdom of God shines in the eyes of a woman who experiences freedom after 15 years of confinement. The Kingdom of God is built and rebuilt in unexpected places by very ordinary people. And I am almost always surprised.

In this growing season, I am content to be amazed by the capacity of the earth to push out green, growing things in spite of my own limited, reluctant efforts. But, more importantly, I am honored to witness the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of destruction, war, and illness. In spite of all the challenges the world faces, I am still hopeful. God’s steadfast love endures and God’s Kingdom is surely growing.

Perhaps I will have the courage to dig a little more and see what will grow in spite of the worms and bugs and snakes (and big fat groundhogs)…

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