Service for Sunday 9th May 2021

Posted by Barbara Nadin on 13 May 2021

Sermon for Melbourne URC 09.05.21 from Mr Jon Godfrey 

A retired man, who lived alone, decided to take up gardening as a hobby. Each year he made it his responsibility to plant an area of garden from scratch.  

This year, he wanted to plant a vegetable garden; however, it was challenging work because of the hardness of the ground and because he was suffering from arthritis in his knees. Leonard, his only son, who used to lend him a hand, had unfortunately gone to prison the previous year.  

The old man decided to write a letter to him detailing his predicament: "Dear Leonard, I am feeling a bit down because it looks like I won't be able to dig my garden this year because of my bad knees," the letter began. 

He continued, stating that he was just too old to put in the long hours required for digging up a plot for the garden when he knew Leonard’s presence would have made it easier, as he would be responsible for the digging. 

Some days passed, and the postman delivered a letter, written by Leonard from prison, to the old man. It read:  

“Dear Dad, Don't worry about the garden this year. I don’t want you to dig it up. That's where the bodies are buried. Love, Lennie.” 

Very early the next morning, several detectives, uniformed police and cadaver dogs turned up at the location and dug up the entire garden in search of the bodies — their search found nothing, so they apologized to the old man and took their leave.  

A few days later the retiree received another letter from his son asking him to plant his seeds since the digging was now done. He wrote.  

“That's the best I could do under the circumstances.”  

Gardening – what a wonderful thing it can be. My wife and I are spending more and more time in the garden these days, trying to undo years of neglect because we’ve spent so much time working and haven’t had the time needed to devote to a large plot.

 We’ve started outside the back door and we’re working our way to the end. We’ve dug out the pond - that we filled in when the children were small – it’s now teaming with wildlife and we’re looking forward to the water lilies re-appearing any time soon. My next project is creating a new garden path that winds all the way down to the end of the garden. 

The Bible has its own garden path. It runs from Genesis to Revelations. As you know, some of the most important events in the Christian faith take place in Biblical gardens. Many of us have known these crucial teachings of the Christian faith since we were children-the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, Christ’s night of sorrow in the garden of Gethsemane, His resurrection from the dead at the Garden Tomb. 

God first planted a garden. He is given many names in the Bible-grand names, majestic names-but from the beginning to the end there is one name more illuminating than the rest by which we can know him: God is a gardener. 

In Genesis 2:8, we are told, “God had planted a garden in the east.” Immediately we get an image of Him stooping down from the high heavens to dig a hole in the ground for a maple sapling or an evergreen, eventually dropping to his knees to grub about in the soil. 

He is doing the things we do in gardens-or we’ve seen others do: patting earth firmly around the base of a newly planted tree, spreading the roots of a bedding plant, planting vegetable seeds, watering. There is mud under his fingernails, mud under his skin, mud streaked under the sockets of his eyes. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (verse 9). 

Our Master Gardener selects the blooms and branches that are completely different. 

Some tall and graceful, some small and powerful.
Some creative and some intellectual.
Some quiet and some verbally gifted.
Some blessed with faith and some chosen to sort out theology.
Some who can sing and some who can listen.
Some who can move quickly and some who move with caution.
Some who can heal and some who can pray.
Some with humour and some who know when it is best to be serious. 

We have different backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses. We have all been given different gifts, and we are all His.  How beautiful is His garden! 

We are His flowers, chosen for the garden soil of our lives.  We are intentionally planted close to those who He has selected for us to bloom with. 

But in order to bloom, we have to embrace our differences and lean into His Spirit.  We must draw on His fruit, extending kindness, grace, and goodness to those around us even when they are so very different.

What a call to be part of His garden, we need to grow and bloom and we should encourage others planted around us to do the same.  But I can’t do that in the flesh.  We need to lean into Him and into the fruit of His Spirit.  When we do that, what a beautiful garden we create! 

Ellen loves gardening programmes and on one spotted the beautiful Snakes’ Head Fritillaria. She ordered the seeds (at great expense) and eagerly read the instructions on the packet, looking forward to seeing the amazing speckled flower heads appearing in the garden soon.  But it was not to be – because the seeds take a full year just to germinate. Even when the seedlings do appear they have to be grown on for two or three seasons before you plant them out – so that could mean waiting a possible four years for anything to appear in the garden. So is it worth it? Is it worth the waiting? 

Well yes, because gardening is all about patience. It takes weeks, months, and sometimes years before the work you put into it comes out. You learn to be patient, you have to wait for that end product, but the end product's just part of it. 

And just like the time we have to wait for things to grow in our garden, so too we sometimes have to wait in our relationship with God. It starts as a small seed and grows into something much bigger. Along the way there will be trials and tribulations, there will be times when we fail, times when we succeed, but at some time it will blossom into something worth waiting for. 

We find that a lot of the things that we plan for in the garden don't always go the way that we'd like them to, and some of the things that we don't plan for in the garden become some of the things that we cherish the most that year. So it's something that I've learned and my family's learned: To appreciate all of it. 

Sometimes we pray for help. Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we would wish him to, but if we are patient he will give us the strength to get through our difficulties. Sometimes his answer is not what we expected; and often it’s better than we expected. Learn to appreciate it all. 

The journey of growing is much more important than the actual produce that we get in the end. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, nothing's so valuable as the time you spend out in the garden. It can be your own little piece of heaven, and you learn to appreciate every little moment—every insect, every plant, every flower, every bird—and when you can appreciate it in that way, there's nothing better. 

Besides the obvious benefit of a harvest, gardening is a way to quiet our minds, process our thoughts, solve problems, and provides a way for us to nurture something and be creative. And if ever anyone finds themselves doubting God’s existence, all they need to do is take a look around a garden, a field, a park or just look up into the sky and they will feel His presence. 

I made a little plaque to go in our garden, it’s a quote from the poem ‘God’s Garden’ by Dorothy Frances Gurney and I’d like to finish and share that poem with you now:

The Lord God planted a garden in the first white days of the world, 

And He set there an angel warden in a garment of light enfurled. 

So near to the peace of Heaven, 

That the hawk might nest with the wren, 

For there in the cool of the even God walked with the first of men.

 

 And I dream that these garden-closes with their shade and their sun-flecked sod 

And their lilies and bowers of roses, were laid by the hand of God. 

The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth,-- 

One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.

 

For He broke it for us in a garden under the olive-trees 

Where the angel of strength was the warden 

And the soul of the world found ease. 

 

Readings: 

Parable of the Sower Matthew 13 v 1-9 and 18-23 

Matthew 6 v 25-34 (Consider the lilies of the field) 

 

 A Thanksgiving for Gardens 

God of grace, in the story of creation, you made the earth a garden and entrusted it to us to till and to keep, a place of peace and beauty where we could walk with you. In the story of redemption, the one who died for us was buried in a garden, and there you raised him up to greet us with new hope and risen life. In the story of the Church, you tend us as a garden, a place of careful pruning and abundant harvest, where we can work with you. Meet us, we pray, in all the gardens where we go for nourishment, refreshment and prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 Amen.   

 

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