"A Summer Thanksgiving"

(especially the solo)
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We have a little garden that reminds me of Skittles or Jelly Bellies—
great bursts of flavor out of something so small!

Our garden is a tiny tract of jungle—in bins, fenced, and parked on a sunny corner of our driveway. Extra pots nearby hold plants that are less susceptible to critter-munching. It’s not a garden to feed many bodies, but it feeds.

For one thing, the flavors of newly-picked veggies are richer than those from a grocery store. But there’s also a matter of “grounding.” When our kids were young, it seemed important that they see the miraculous processes that make our food. And, as our song “A Summer Thanksgiving” points out, the special freshness of just-harvested food does remind us of God’s fabulous Creation and how God himself considered it “good” (e.g. Genesis 1:11-13).

Fast forward to modern times, and plants are still a blessed miracle. We can label it “photosynthesis” and understand that sunlight's energy is captured by chlorophyll. That energy is used to power reactions that, overall, combine carbon dioxide from the air with water. Certainly, soil contributes also, but the bulk of plant substance is actually constructed from water and (thin) air. It’s better than any magician’s trick!

Jesus, of course, didn’t speak about photosynthesis, but he often used plant examples to teach about God. The famous “Parable of the Sower” ends with how a seed falling into good soil can produce 30, 60, or a hundred times the original input (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23, or Mark 4:3-8, 13-20, or Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). If you're a gardener, just think of what comes from one little envelope of seeds!!

God’s math, God’s multiplication, shines out again in the famous story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, when five small loaves and two fish, through the work of Jesus, filled more than 5,000 hungry people (Matthew 14:13-21, or Mark 6:30-44, or Luke 9:10-17, or John 6:1-13). Or, consider the Parable of the Mustard Seed, about how a tiny mustard seed grows into a bird-sheltering garden tree (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, or Luke13:18-19).  (The New Testament Gospel writers must really have wanted us to hear about God’s massive power of increase! Even in the Old Testament, however, we find a wonderful image of God’s bounty in Leviticus 26:9-10, and how that bounty is meant to be shared, e.g. in Deuteronomy 24:19-22.)

It’s more than a matter of God’s bounty with food or plants, though. Jesus explained that the Parable of the Sower is really about the multiplying influence of God’s word when someone takes it into their heart, then lives it out among other people. Among those people, some will also take it to heart, and then….

Jesus knew God's word to be an active, growing, multiplying force. He tells another parable in Mark 4:26-29 which tells how people plant seeds, but then, mostly on their own, plants go on to grow and develop their fruit.

Yes, it's true that I water my garden, and that I prepared the soil with fertilizer before planting. It's also true that not every seed goes on to produce a harvest. (Even in the parable of the Sower, seed could be eaten by birds or some plants could wither or be choked by weeds). But, there is something in plants that drives their development, a something that most of us neither fully understand or have much to do with! The driving forces are in the plant's DNA and hormones. It is in the plant's nature to go on and be fruitful! Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like that. We might sow some seeds—which needs to happen—but the growth is from God!  (1 Corinthians 3:6)

If you've been a Christian for a while, you might know this from your own experience: Just recently, my husband and I were complimented over a tiny kindness we did decades ago. We have no memory of what it was, but the beneficiary must have counted it as valuable.  I like to think that, in Heaven, we might meet some of the people that we don’t know we’ve helped, or hear the stories of how God increased the impact of some small kindnesses. We sow, but the really cool results are what God accomplishes, even unseen.

Understanding this helps me continue trusting and moving ahead to plant seeds of good. The seeds might be small, and my faith in planting might be small, but Jesus told us that small amounts of faith can, in God's power, accomplish outsized things! (Luke 17:6)

When winter keeps temps cold here, and it's hard to see anything growing outside, I like planting seeds in the house. I plant a few tiny slices of grocery-store grape tomatoes in some potting soil. They grow, and get transplanted so that I finally have about 50 tomato plants in sawed-off milk jugs on the living room floor. When it's safe to start summer planting, we give them away to friends and even strangers. (Sometimes, people give or leave us other plants in return, so we are blessed, too! (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Honestly, though, just hearing about—or even imagining—other people's harvests makes me happy.

But here’s another cool gardening image that resonated with me while preparing this study: Hosea 10:12 lends us a deep sense of anticipation as it says to “break up [our] unplowed ground” in expectation of what God is going to do.

With similar thoughts thoughts of trust and praise, let us end with Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV*):

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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written by Constance Morgenstern
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