About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
- The Garden
When we purchased our
house in 1986 I turned the ordinary-looking backyard into our personal
paradise. It's where in nice
whether we dine, relax, and enjoy the variety of colourful annuals and
perennials that provide a peaceful environment.
It's where birds flutter from feeders to trees, squirrels scamper
across the grass, and butterflies float from flower to flower.
Mr. blue jay, who we've named "Blue," swoops down on our
deck railing to stuff his beak with a stash of peanuts we provide for him.
With a quick glance our way, as if to say "thank you," he
jets off to a nearby tree, where he considers taking a bath in the bird
bath below. Seeing Blue and
his friends splashing around in our bird bath is next to hilarious.
As water furiously flies in all directions, we thank God for our
Every spring when I'm on
my knees working away in the soil I'm reminded of church, and why?
I tend to view church as God's garden, a place where He desires to
visit with us, His "new creatures in Christ" (2 Corinthians
5:17). As nice as all that
sounds, I'm sorry to admit, like church, our garden isn't a perfect
paradise. Winter kill is an
annual irritation. Purchasing
new plants is a yearly adventure. Relocating
plants is often a process of creative design.
Then there's fertilizing, where there is no one fertilizer fits all
solution. Each plant requires its own
fertilizing formula. The goal
is perfection, but perfection seems eternally elusive.
It happens every spring.
I get one section of the garden looking great while another section
needs a make-over. Creating
one beautiful-looking unified garden consisting of many distinctly
different plants is a difficult task to accomplish.
Arrogant weeds, for example, grow anywhere they want.
Grass that is meant for lawns sprouts between our interlocking
I can't plant a flower
in soil where the soil can't support the flower.
Either I change the soil or I plant a different flower.
Doesn't all of this sound like church?
You get one corner of church looking good and productive while
another corner needs a make-over. Some
saints aren't blossoming into their full ministry potential because
they're planted in the wrong soil, in the wrong corner of church.
That inhibits the productive purpose for that corner's existence.
Some people need to be staked up with brotherly support until they
can stand on their own. Others
need pruning, and no one likes that. Still
others are weeds, needing to be uprooted, similar to what
Jesus said in John 15:6.
"If you do not
remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such
branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."
Like our backyard
garden, and really, like all of God's creation, church has its seasons.
With the advent of each new season, much thought, prayer, and
collaboration among the garden's overseers must accompany any creative
seasonal redesign of God's garden. Of
course, knowledge of the Gardener's manual is essential when attempting
any seasonal make-over. With gardening, one wastes time, effort, and
money, designing a garden without knowing the fundamentals of gardening. The same
applies to church.
The need to plant,
transplant, prune, cultivate, water, fertilize, rip apart, and all of the
rest, is an ever-present essential reality in any garden paradise.
Working, or reworking, God's garden requires collaborative thought,
prayer, and loving care by God-appointed, church recognized, Holy Spirit
inspired garden overseers who are creatively capable of beautifying the