Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
The summer after my freshman year of college, I got a job as a gardener for AlbanyParks and Recreation. My job was to take care of the flowers in all of Albany’s parks (I drove around to approximately 15 parks). The summer started with planting all of these amazing plants and flowers. The rest of the summer was about care of those flowers. I watered, weeded, readjusted watering systems, and weeded some more. I was in the dirt five days of every week that summer, all day long.
For the first few days, I completely hated this job. I was always dirty, sore, hot, and I didn’t think money could ever mean this much to me. But then, I realized that this might just be one of the best jobs ever because I was outside all of the time with nothing to do but care for creation. As the summer grew on, I grew with my flowers. I got attached. I knew what they needed. I knew how they were growing or when something didn’t grow. I took great pride in the beauty that the beds I worked with exuded. I was ecstatic when I saw someone enjoying the plants or when they commented on their beauty.
What I came to realize through that summer was that we are deeply connected to creation because all of creation is sacred. Today we recognize those in our midst who are restoring creation through beautification. These are the people in our midst who take great delight in growing beautiful flowers, who add beauty by landscaping around the church, those who provide upkeep to the labyrinth and around Parkview, and those who pick up to keep creation beautiful. You have a call from God to do so.
Today’s Roman’s passage reminds us of this deep connection to creation. We are so interlocked that creation groans while waiting for us to get closer to God and closer to it. We have an essential solidarity with the earth around us. We all long to be set free. God says, through Romans, that God aims to redeem damaged material creation. We should act now to anticipate and help along the new creation that we are so intimately linked with. Nature is a primary way that God shows God’s glory. Why not start to care now?
Jesus sets before us an image of a gardener who won’t give up on creation and many scholars believe that the writer is showing God is that gardener. Just as the gardener doesn’t give up on the fig tree and gives it ultimate concern and care, God won’t give up on us, also God’s creations. By seeing the example of the care given to the tree, we should also react by giving care to God’s creations. The gardener believes that the beauty of the fig tree will thrive and add to the story just as those around us who have this gift continue to see the beauty in what can be. We are so blessed to have those in our midst who see that and share with us. What a blessing to look upon the world and see blooming everywhere!
Quotes for the Week
“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” ― Chief Seattle
“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” –Doug Larson
“If your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.” — Bill Watterson
“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” — James Dent
Romans 8:14-23 (NRSV)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Luke 13: 6-9, 18-19 (NRSV)
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’
Questions for the Week
Who in your midst is someone who is blessed with a green thumb?
Where do you see beauty in creation?
How are you connected with the earth?