About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Church - The Garden Of God


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 backyard family. 


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 bricks.  

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 Garden of God.  Church, in one sense of the word, is the Garden of God.  



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