By Pastor Brent McDougal
Jen’s garden is starting to come in with summer vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers. The rabbits ate all the strawberries, but we can’t complain much. After several years of not having a garden, Jen didn’t miss a beat. Everything is growing strong in that mysterious and beautiful little ecosystem where most of the work goes on unseen.
As John Denver sang, “Only two things that money can’t buy, that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”
In addition to enjoying the produce, my part was to help plant the seeds.
We pulled up roots and rocks and then spread some fresh soil. Then came the careful spacing around the garden of many types of seeds. We dug the little holes and placed the seeds like tiny treasures, then replaced the dirt and watered the ground and sat back and just looked at it all and hoped for the best.
Not long ago I read a verse about hope from Romans 5. There’s a kind of hope, Paul says, that doesn’t disappoint us. Even if we can’t always see what is happening, or wonder how we’ll make it through, God gives us a hope that does not let us down.
“….hope does not make ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
Shed abroad suggests a farmer who generously plants seeds. The Holy Spirit is generous, and the seeds are seeds of love. This is how you know that the Holy Spirit is filling up your life: when God’s love comes in like a bumper crop for you and for the benefit of others.
Our hope is confirmed not by some pie-in-the-sky future, but in the reality of love within our hearts, today.
Other translations state that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. So here’s the question that we need to ask: how many Christians have had the experience not just of God’s love and of conversion, but of God’s love being poured out generously into their hearts?
Could it be said of your heart that the love of God has been “shed abroad” — lavishly — comprehensively — within you?
I’m asking this question for myself as well because so often I don’t have peace. I don’t take advantage of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whose first gift — the first fruit — is love. When I suffer, I complain too much and start thinking that God doesn’t love me. So I wonder how much God’s love has really infected all of my heart.
And because that’s true, there isn’t much unleashing of the power of love from my life into the world.
The little garden in our backyard is full of power. The power of the sun; the latent power of a seedling; the power of warmth in soil; the power of creation.
The church is like a garden that has been planted with the most powerful force on the planet. We’re full of power, full of peace with God and access to our Heavenly Father. But it’s like we’re afraid to give ourselves to this kind of power that can change the world.
If you haven’t experienced the overwhelming, reckless, never-ending, never-let-you-go love of God, that’s my prayer for you today.
Or maybe it’s just been a while since you experienced the richness of God’s love. Here’s what can help:
Take a walk.
Pause to breathe.
Meditate on a scripture, treating it like a little seed in your heart.
Ask for the Holy Spirit.
Eat a homegrown tomato.
Count your blessings.
Have a good cry.
Sit on the porch.
Plant a seed.
Just do your part. You can’t make it grow. Remember that you have a place and a purpose in this earthly garden, just like the seed. You, too, were made to grow into something good.