Bearing Fruit – whether berries or lettuce, the promise of beans, peppers and tomatoes. Carrots. Peas. Herbs. If you planted even a small garden this year, by now you may be seeing the fruits of your labours, even if they are not ready to harvest.
New growth. Whether you planted flowers, vegetables, or had time to cut, trim or organize our yards and gardens, you may feel a sense of wholeness, or accomplishment, and a sense of wellbeing in these usual times. Our gardens whether in containers or in the ground, and our house plants, offer a sign of some normalcy in our current life structured around the pandemic changes trying to keep as many of us as possible healthy.
New growth. Hmm. How do plants grow when they aren’t in their usual environment? They usually need love, care and attention to help them grow as if they were in their natural habitat. I think this applies to us. For many of us, our sense of our spiritual selves is tied to going to church. To be in the building. Christ Church Flamborough is 154 years or so old. Many generations have been baptized, confirmed, married and buried in this space. There are warm memories of faith experiences, friendships and comraderie in the life and work of the parish. We miss people who find it difficult to get to church or are unable to come to church. We have sad and wistful memories as we remember those we love and those who were important to us, those whom we see no longer. We may find being in the building, volunteering and worshiping together, as the way we connect to God, to Jesus the Christ, and to the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew, chapter 13, verses 1 to 9 and 18 to 23, the people are looking to Jesus to help them feel closer to God; to make it happen for them. Jesus cautions them with the Parable of the Sower this Sunday. We need to sow seeds in a place with enough soil, so plants can root, unencumbered by distractions like thorns or weeds, with enough water to sustain them, accompanied by love and understanding. Jesus isn’t just talking about sowing grains or vegetables or fruit. Jesus is talking about sowing seeds of faith.
How do we nurture the seeds of faith within us? How can we feel more connected with God? Each of us may have our own routine; our special location or place where we reflect. We may ground ourselves in prayer, using one or several books of prayer or poetry to get started; or read our favourite passages from the Bible. We may pray, silently or aloud. We may journal, talking with God, or perhaps identifying our gratitude each day. We may read morning or evening prayer or compline in the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Alternative Services, or from some other source.
Bearing Fruit – We need to tend the gardens of our souls. The fertilizer or routine for one person is not the same as the nurturing needed by another person. In the process of going to church regularly, we get into the habit of thinking that our experience there needs to excite us or warm us or engulf us enough to tide us over until the next time we gather together. That somehow, we aren’t responsible to connect with God in the meantime, on our own. Some of us may not know where to begin. If we have not tended the garden of our soul before, how do we know where or how to start? First off we pray – sitting quietly, or walking or being in a favourite spot. We can say formal prayers. We can pray the Psalms. Randomly picking a psalm is often quite helpful. We can write our own prayers. Or, we can pray without words, trying not to be distracted by our thoughts.
I know it seems hard when we don’t know where to begin. Remember this venture is between you and God. As Christians we worship together because that is what it means to be in a Christian community. Gathering together. Working to make sure people in our community are fed and safe and welcomed. But we are responsible for our times with God between the times that we worship together. Quoting a favourite hymn, we can pray to God to help our hearts be good soil, to plant the seed of God’s Word and God’s love in our hearts. God’s Word is Christ, the teachings of Jesus.
As you nurture your house plants and your gardens, I invite you to be aware that God is nurturing you. We just need to open our hearts and heighten our awareness that God is present, always. Even when we aren’t gathered together in Christ Church.
Let us pray.
Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your Word. Lord, let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood. When my heart is hard, break the stone away. When my heart is cold, warm it with the day. When my heart is lost, lead me on your way. Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart be good soil. Amen. Britt Hallquist, translation by Gracia Grindal, Selah Publishing Co, 1994.
Collect for 5th Sunday after Trinity, Book of Common Prayer, p 224
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Chris tour Lord. Amen.
Collect for 6th Sunday after Pentecost, Book of Alternative Services, p 367
Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. May we find peace in your service, and in the world to come, see you face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Gospel of Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23, July 12, 2020
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!’
18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’