Monday, August 31, 2009

Gardens and the Kingdom of God

Moving out to Mertens has reaped benefits for me both spiritually and for the food that Sarah and I eat. We live among farmers who grow all this incredible food. They all not only grow food for profit, but they all have personal gardens which grow the best onions and tomatoes I have ever had. When talking to these farmers about their farming and their gardens, I am struck by how much they do and how much they cannot control. Each year the farmer worries about whether or not it is going to rain or if the sun will scorch the crops. Or they worry if a late freeze that is unexpected will ruin a pasture of freshly planted crops. They worry about animals or insects. What they have told me is that they create the conditions for the growth of crops, but they cannot cause growth.

I do not think it was a mistake that the author of Genesis tells us that the world that God created at peace with him was a garden. A garden is something that you work hard at maintaing. A garden is something that you constantly pull weeds, water, till the ground, prune the plants, and plant seeds. At the same time a garden takes incredible faith. No matter how hard you work, you cannot control whether or not you will have good crops or a beatiful bloom.

The kingdom of God and his church is like a garden. We do have work to do. We have seeds to plant, plants to water, the hungry to feed, and a message of new life in the midst of death. However, we cannot control the result. We are not a repair shop. We are a garden. God is the only one who controls the results of the garden. What do we do in the mean time? Keep working, keep praying, keep becoming his people, and most of all keep loving and proclaiming the Christ story with our lives. God will produce the results. Sometimes they may not be what we think or what we hope for, but this is God's world, God's Kingdom, and God's church. God started the world in a garden, and God resurrected Jesus in a garden. God, may your church be your garden where new life is found.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vacation and New Monasticism

This past week, Sarah and I headed to New Mexico and Colorado for vacation. We climbed a couple mountains and got to visit with Sarah's parents who co-pastor a Disciples church in Albuquerque. We actually got to worship with them on Sunday, which was a huge treat because Sarah and I never get to just attend church together.

While we were in Colorado, we stopped by an incredible book store in Denver called the Tattered Cover. If you are ever in Denver, you need to check this place out! I picked up a book there called The New Monasticism by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who is an associate pastor at St. John's Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina and a leader within the New Monasticism movement. I've only read the first chapter so far, and already he is controversial but challenging at the same time. His thesis that it is hard to be a Christian in America rings true in my ears. I leave you with a quote from his introductory chapter:

"The sign that marks the life of the church in the world is God's victory over death through death - the ultimate winning by losing. Any church that remembers its identity in the transition from Good Friday to Easter morning has reason to hope, even in the darkest night. Yes, it's hard to be a Christian in America. Indeed, the church we know is fraught with contradictions. But God is able to restore life, giving warmth to limbs that were frozen in death. Even if the church is the dead and broken body of Christ, God can resurrect it."