The Practice of Godly Gardening

You got one of these? (Thumb) Hold it up. Show it off. (Bend/wiggle.) Check out the color. If it’s your-color flesh you got a good mamma! “Wash before church, Dear.” If it’s purple, you just voted in a far-off election. If it’s speckled, you shoulda licked it after that jelly donut this AM. But if it’s green… well if it’s green… it’s of GOD… and so are you. (And if you look hard enough, and imagine deeply enough, there’s some green on/in there somewhere!) How about that? Everybody’s got a little green thumb goin’,  ‘cause every one of us is a child of GOD! And it turns out, God is a gardener. ‘Has been since…forever. And like every good grower, God has a favorite for his garden. O, some love to grow veggies. And God likes them, too. (Even Brussels sprouts.) Some of us are flower gardeners. And God says, “Yes!” (‘Especially to DANDELIONS… of which he plants the most.) But it seems, at least if we know Jesus, that God is partial to GRAPES! God is a passionate Grape Gardener. OK, vinedresser we should say. In fact, god owns the vineyard. It’s called, The Kingdom. So this morning, comin’ to the Table for the seed of the ground that becomes the flour of the Bread, and the fruit of the vine that becomes the Wine of the Spirit, it’s appropriate. Let’s speak of the vine and the vineyard, the owner and dresser. Let’s get to the practice of GODLY GARDENING.

Look here. God gardens with a heart for connection. So Jesus says, “Examine your connection! Do it TODAY. Your life depends on it!” God assures the connection connects. Check your connections! Jesus teaches, “I AM the true vine, and my Father the vinedresser. …Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.” Now I’m no grape grower. But a fella can learn. From college biology to reading theology. Or, just noodle on the net. Connection. Strong connection. God the stem/trunk. Jesus the vine, we the branch. All: connected for living, growing, fruit, new life. Here’s a cool contrast about connection in the vineyard. Among trees, the weakest part’s where the branch springs from the tree, the twig from the branch. But along the vine, where the branch connects is the strongpoint. You might shatter the vine or snap the branch, but the connecting-point hardly ever gives way. That’s how it is between us and God, in Jesus Christ. God never lets go. Never gives in. Nor Jesus, even should we spread open his hands and nail them to a cross. O no, if there’s gonna be a break, it’s gonna have to come from our side. Odd, we pride ourselves on connection today. We’re wired. Hooked up. Dialed in. We network. We text, Google, Skype. We coupon, scrap book, even climb our family tree in groups! CONNECTED-R-US it seems. BUT when life-winds blow, or storms roll in, or like weighed-down branches with burdens on our heads or somebody hangin’ dead weight on our limbs, LOOK OUT!  All’s not what it seems. Ask a 3yr. old, “What’s the cow say?” “Moo.” (The cat. Meow. The dog. Woof. The lamb. Baa) The mouse, “CLICK”! Post-computer, “Are you connected?” means different things to different people, good and bad. E.g.: Stanford Institute found 13% of those on the web 5/+ hours/week spend less time with family/friends; 8 % attend fewer social events. 26 % talk less by phone. Yet connection to family and friends gives life meaning. Research shows we swarm to Facebook friends. But “friending” is not the same as “befriending”. Michael Bugeja, Interpersonal Divide. Football Player Jr. Suau’s death this week reveals 78% of NFL’rs bankrupt, divorced, depressed or suicidal w/in 5 yrs. ff. “the game.” The global village often leaves us lonely, with no one to turn to in hard times. Into all this steps Jesus, saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me, and I in you.” Friends, when you go home today, ask yourself, to whom and to what am I connected?! Christ offers that vine-to-branch connection that never lets go or gives in. Only we can do the breaking. What burden on your shoulders do you need to shake off? What’s weighin’ you down you need to let go? Is anything/anybody swingin’ from your limbs that doesn’t belong there? God-in-Christ gardens with a heart for connection. God wants to connect with you!

God gardens with a certain life-flow in mind. Trunk to limb. Limb to branch. Branch to fruit. Fruit to seed. It’s all about the fruit. And the fruit is all about seed! Make sure you bear fruit: startin’ this week. That’s your homework! God knows. The entire purpose of the connection root-to-leaf in the garden or the vineyard is this. THE FRUIT! And the whole purpose of the fruit is the seed. In life and faith, Jesus says the same. “You shall know them (true believers) by their fruit! And the thing about the fruit is: it births, nourishes and protects the seed. It releases the seed to take root and yield still more fruit! Jesus says it this way. “Unless a grain [seed] falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain [seed], but if it dies it bears much fruit. … Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there will my servant be also.” Max Lucado tells us about Steve. He delivered pharmacy supplies. One customer, an older woman, lived alone 50’ from the store. Steve delivered a jug of water 2X weekly. She relied on Steve’s deliv­ery for washing, bathing, drinking. She could have had cheaper municipal water. But the city sent only the water; NOT a person. His visits alone watered her, body and soul. The FRUIT of his labor was the human connection Steve provided. I ask you. Is there someone at home, in your family, at school or work or in the neighborhood, to whom YOU could bear the fruit of connection, for Jesus sake? The fruits of our spirit-vine are not church attendance, Bible knowledge, or our personal stewardship, though important they are. No, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ‘In short a loving, compassionate life. ‘A life that both says and shows: Jesus! And plants the seed of a whole new generation of believer-followers!

Dear friends, the practice of godly gardening includes the habit of regular pruning. OUCH! But God prunes for a purpose & that purpose is LIFE. Trust in the pruning. Decide for living life-in-the-faith. You know a grape vine by its grapes, an apple tree by its apples. And a pear tree’s not welcome to bear plums! Or prunes! A holly without berries seems no holly at all. All this is so plain among plants. It ought be no mystery among people! “Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, God takes away. Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, to bear more fruit…. Fail to abide in me, and the branch withers, is cast out, gathered and burned. Live in me, and my words live in you. Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done. By this my Father is glorified, you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” Jesus. O my, I don’t just get to do-my-own-thing,” and follow Jesus. More is required. [(Fruit worthy of repentance, quite often.)] Without it, God won’t just sigh or cry. He will separate me from my sins and silliness. ‘My office busy-ness & my inattention to others. He brings folks to my door. ‘Sends me to hear somebody’s hurt 1ce more. As with me so with you. Over and over, ‘til our life looks like grace and tomorrow more like heaven. Pruning produces. Fruit. Seed. Life. This week, pray to feel the pinch. It’s a godsend! Connect! Bear fruit that lasts!

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