There’s an old classic preacher’s story that goes something like this: A new pastor was visiting one of his members, who had a reputation for maintaining a beautiful garden. The reputation, it turned out, was entirely deserved. The gardener proudly showed the pastor around showcasing the flowers and vegetables that sprang from the ground.
Finally the pastor remarked: “God has truly blessed you with a beautiful and productive garden.” The gardener nodded, and then added, “But you should have seen the place when God took care of it by himself!”
Gardening is one of the most ancient activities. When God created the world in Genesis, he started by planting a garden. And then God created people to be the gardeners of this garden. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 NRSV). Gardening is also the image the Apostle Paul draws on when he describes his ministry. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6 NRSV). It seems that God didn’t create gardens so they could tend themselves. He created us to tend gardens for him.
We till. We plant. We water. But God gives the growth.
If you have a garden, good for you! If you don’t have a garden I’m here to remind you that you really do. Our neighborhood and world is a garden that you’ve been created by God to cultivate. And for me, and many of you reading this, Maple Avenue United Methodist Church is the specifically local community garden we’re called to tend.
This is both a blessing and a challenge. Our congregation is a garden unlike any other. We have a ministry that is unlike any other ministry in town. We have a family of faith unlike any other membership roll in town. And we have the potential to make a significant and positive difference in the 12 Points Neighborhood, and the world – a potential that only we can fulfill. Just as God calls each individual to a unique ministry, Maple Avenue United Methodist Church has its own special calling to serve God’s Kingdom in ways we are specifically qualified to do. Maple Avenue is a beautiful and unusual garden, and you’re significant part of it.
Since May is the month many people start focusing on their gardens, let’s focus on this one. We have a free community meal coming up on Wednesday, May 15th, from 5-7 p.m. The whole point of this gathering is for people of the congregation and people of the neighborhood to meet each other and make new friends. Be part of this event. And on Sunday, May 19th, we will have a pot-luck dinner immediately after our second service (11:30 a.m.). Bring a dish to share (it could be your favorite recipe, or simply a bag of potato chips) and enjoy the food and fellowship.
Invite your friends and neighbors to join you for worship. At all of our events make visitors and guests feel welcome. And lift up our congregation daily in prayer. It’s the right time of year for gardeners to spring into action, so let’s cultivate our garden together.