Our garden is just waiting to burst with life underneath its blanket of late-Spring snow; dormant now, but soon it will unfurl itself from its yearly grave! Last autumn we harvested nearly 100 bulbs from our 7 Asiatic and Oriental Lilies.
As we planted those bulbs throughout the garden I could envision the Stargazer, Gold Splendor, Connecticut Yankees, and Journey’s End lilies trumpeting their glory to the summer’s sky in symphony with the other bloomers throughout our garden. Seeds and bulbs; re-recreation at its best! The plants once again glorify the Creator in just being what they are created to be. Life began in The Garden and life will end in The Garden. All kinds of things happen in gardens throughout Sacred Scripture. One I recall is where Jesus refers to seeds and lilies, and harvest in the Gospels.
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
–The Gospel according to St. Mark 4:30-32
It’s a meaningful metaphor for the perpetual re-creating of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Mustard is similar to kudzu in that it is invasive, wildly winding its way through the soil. It is interesting that Jesus was speaking to Jews who valued order and had very strict rules about keeping a tidy garden; they even had laws against planting mustard seed–it messed with their system! Jesus had the chutzpa to compare the kingdom of God to a forbidden seed.
The problem was that many of the listeners and even some of his followers had lofty ideas about what the Kingdom of God should look like and how it should work. In their minds order was foremost, that and size. They probably envisioned the tall cedars of Lebanon rather then some untamed bush from a mustard seed, spreading wherever it pleased, messy, difficult to keep under control. What they couldn’t imagine is God’s Kingdom subtly and subversively taking over their well-ordered world. They knew the laws of gardening and they knew the laws of God, or, at least, they thought they did. Surely, in their minds, Jesus had something to learn about both!
Their vision of God’s Kingdom included a conquering hero, in the stature of the cedars of Lebanon. There vision of God’s Kingdom included a frontal attack on the empires and governments of the world. Power to the People! Their vision of God’s Kingdom did not include a small act of faith like a mustard seed. Their vision didn’t kindle to the idea of a subtle contagion spreading through one little life, one little act of hospitality, one little act of mercy, one little act of grace, one little act of forgiveness, one little act of trust at a time.
My favorite Sunday School song comes back to me when I read this parable, “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.” I wonder what this world’s kingdom would look like if my corner had mustard seed growing in it. It might be in disarray, spreading in fits and starts according to the measure of my trust in the Gospel Truth. Me thinks I could truly start a revolution that would turn this world’s kingdom on its head if I gardened according to Jesus instruction! The Kingdom of God here would spread with every seed of love, mercy, forgiveness, long-suffering, gentleness, peace, hope, and grace I allowed the LORD to plant in the soil of my own soul here in my corner of world. And little by little my corner would unite with another’s corner and then another’s and then, happy day the “rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys” would spring forth among the brambles of this unkept garden we live in here in this kingdom. Me thinks that is exactly what the prophet Isaiah was getting at when he wrote these words in his corner of the world:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and return not thither but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy,
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.”
LORD, would you give me the seeds I need to plant here and now? I don’t know if The Garden needs seeds of patience or seeds of joy right now, this world seems overgrown with swaths of weeds that are choking the life right out of it.
LORD, would you lead me to the corner of my world that most needs seeds of hope and love planted? It seems The Garden is too dark and shady in some places.
LORD, would you re-create in the empty spaces of The Garden something of your beauty and goodness? Perhaps you could throw into the soil an abundant amount of your Truth while you are at it!