Third Sunday in Lent—Year C—March 3, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
As the snow began to really melt this week, showing off the fact that I have grass for the first time in a month and providing the first glimpse of the spring flowers poking their green heads up out of the ground, I have been getting more and more excited about starting my garden. I know I still have some time before we are free from the chance of another frost meaning that I can plant seeds, but I have had fun recently starting to seriously plan out what I will plant where and the like. During the blizzard, I ordered seed catalogues, which came just in time for me to look through and make too long of a shopping list during the second snowstorm. So now I just have to widdle it down and actually order.
And top of all of that, yesterday, at the Transition Framingham event, there was a lot of talk about community gardens, coffee ground collections, and composting. Needless to say, the labor of gardening has been on my mind this week.
AND the Gospel reading from Luke does the same.
Growing plants and harvesting produce is a lot of work. Plants are very needy. They need just the right amount of water, sunlight, nutrients, and care in order to flourish. If plants get not enough water—the dry out, shrivel up, and die. If they get too much water—the rot from the bottom up, from the inside out, and die. If they get not enough sunlight they do not get enough energy to grow, but if they get too much, they might get scorched and die. It is quite a balancing act to take care of plant, to sustain it from seed to harvest. Gardening is tough work.
Plants are needy, but humans are even more so.
We hunger…for good food, for something to believe in, for something to count on, for love.
We thirst…for justice, equality, peace, security, a sense of belonging, for a feeling of connection, importance, and contribution.
We get sick and hurt…and we long for healing, wholeness, comfort, strength, and guidance.
…just like plants…
We face temptation and testing.
We get distracted.
We made idols.
We give other things credit for things God does for us.
We always want what we do not have.
…We are sinful.
And when sin gets in the way…it is hard to produce good fruit. Sin is the anti-fertilizer. It can counteract the water, sunlight, and nutrients with which we are provided.
But the good news, is that even though we are sinful, God keeps tending to us. God does not leave us to rot, shrivel, or get scorched.
God sets a feast before us. And does so in many different ways:
God provides us music and the Word to feast our ears on.
God provides us art and a gathered community to feast our eyes on.
God provides us with spiritual food and drink to feast in the community gathered around us and the activities that we participate in.
God provides us with holy water with which to be washed and watered.
God provides us bread and wine, Jesus’ body and blood, the ultimate gift, to feast on.
It is through all these feasts that God nourishes, tends, strengthens, and prunes us so that we too might grow and bear good fruit. When we use our God given gifts, inspiration, and nourishment, others are likewise nourished.
It is like compost, something incredibly nourishing and up-building comes from something you would otherwise throw away. Even the smallest acts of sharing God’s goodness with another person, something you think of as a throw-away action, can be just the nourishment from God that such a person needed. A smile or a simple “how are you” can turn someone’s whole say around. It is like sharing Christ’s peace without even saying the churchy words.
It is also like compost, that the right mix is needed to achieve the proper nourishment. Not everyone relates to God in the same way. Some people do so best through music. Others—art. Others—silence. Others—daily devotions. Others—manual labor. And so God, our gardener, nourishes the world in a multitude of ways so that all can get what they need…the right mix of sun, water, and nutrients…the right mix of worship, work, and fellowship.
And like the variety of ways that God nourishes us, God works through us in many different ways to spread that nourishment.
How is God working to nourish you?
What are your sunlight, water, and nutrients?
What good fruit is God equipping you to bear for the good of the world?
How might God be working through you to nourish and tend to others?
We do not always understand how or even that all this nourishing, growing, and spreading is happening, but it is. God’s “thoughts are not [our] thoughts, not are [God’s] ways [our] ways.” But God promises to feed us, nourish us, provide us with water to quench our physical and spiritual thirst, and so we trust that God does.
God is always willing to spend one more year tending us, so that we will produce good fruit. God, our gardener does not give up on us and simply cut us down. Amen.
 Isaiah 55:8, NRSV.