Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Good News in the Garden

Here's my second article for our parish magazine:

For years, I had unhelpfully divided the Christian life into those things that appear to be “spiritual” and those that are “not-so-spiritual.” You might be able to identify with this. For example, I saw prayer, the reading of Scriptures, communion, Christian work, fasting and so on, as more spiritual than say, eating, shopping, washing up or going to the toilet –mundane things that had to be done, but that really aren’t… very spiritual.

Something that the apostle Paul says has helped to dismantle this dividing wall. He wrote, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31) implying that everything can be spiritual because God can be glorified in everything.

But did Paul really mean this? What about something as mundane as eating some cereal for breakfast? Or munching on some fruit? Or carrying out work in our gardens or allotments this spring? How in the world do we eat Weetabix to the glory of God? Do the 5-a-day have spiritual as well as physical benefits? Can we really enjoy fellowship with God through gardening? According to Paul and the rest of Scriptures, yes!

Well, before you think I’m mad, let me just explain where I’m coming from – or rather, whose footsteps I’ve been following! Firstly, John Wesley said, “God has written a sermon in everything”. And secondly, John Calvin says the Bible is like a pair of glasses through which we look at the world to see what it’s saying about the Living God.

So by looking at creation through the lenses of Scriptures, our eyes are opened to a new horizon of spirituality where without exception, all our actions become small occasions of fellowship with God.

So let’s use cereal, fruit and a harvest as our case study. The LORD made sure that Israel, His ancient church, thought about and celebrated their significance in a big way at least twice a year. Two of their seven annual feasts revolve around harvest time – the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks.

We may not celebrate these two feasts in the same way today. But, we can still think of what our breakfast cereals, fruit or gardens are preaching. The Apostle Paul tells us exactly what we’re to think about – the death and resurrection of Jesus and our glorious future with Him.

In talking about the resurrection, Paul calls Jesus “the firstfruits of them that are raised from the dead.” So just as the firstfruits from any harvest are a sign of the rest of the harvest to come, the resurrection of Jesus is a guarantee of our resurrection. Just as Jesus has been resurrected into a new, sinless and imperishable body, we will be like Him when He returns.

Just before He died, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). And so after His death, like a seed, Jesus’ body was ‘planted’ in a garden (John 19:41) only to burst forth from it as the Tree of Life.

I don’t know what your cereal of choice or favourite fruit is, but whenever you eat them, think of the Divine Seed who was sown to bear the fruit of eternal life for all. Or when you’re working on your allotments, as you sow seed and anticipate the plants coming up from the ground, remember the good news in that garden from which Jesus rose from the dead, and look forward to our own resurrections which He has guaranteed.

Recently, as I was officiating an interment of ashes at Western Mill Cemetery, I was reminded of how Christians in the past used to see cemeteries as harvest fields. One day, at the final harvest, like seeds that have been sown, we will all burst forth from the grave: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: [yet] some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)”. The wheat will be separated from the weeds and chaff, and all of us who belong to Jesus will be gathered to Him to be with Him, and His Father and the Holy Spirit, to enjoy the fullness of life forever.

In the meantime, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field (Matthew 9:37-38)”. Let us do what Jesus asks us to do; let’s pray for our parish, city, country and world. But let us also consider how we ourselves have been commissioned to be workers in His field and pray that the Lord will lead us to tell others the good news of our beloved Jesus and the future we have with Him.

1 comment:

yemsee said...

nice little Word bites =)