How Are Things Going in Your Garden?
Around the time I wrote Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God, I asked a class I was teaching at the Valley Vineyard, “If you were a farmer and you were given the responsibility of planting and gathering a harvest out of every area of our Valley, how you would go about it?” The answer was pretty simple. The participants said they would break the Valley up into smaller sections and assign farmers to each section. Each farmer would plant seeds in his field and before long a harvest could be gathered from every field across the Valley.
Consider the spiritual implications of this response and what Jesus had in mind when he said, “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 9:38 NIV).
The Lord of the harvest has answered this prayer and has sent us out to work in each of our sections in His harvest field. The Lord has situated us in homes and apartments so we can work in the field He has assigned to us. I remember saying in the early days of Neighborhood Initiative, “I dream of a day when we meet a Christian we don’t know and ask them, not what church do you go to, but what harvest field are you working in?” The Lord is certainly bringing this dream to pass in our day.
Pastor Jimmy made a comment that has stuck with me and I have pondered it over and over again. He said, “What will be the new normal for the Valley Vineyard when we come out of the pandemic? We can’t go back to the way it was.” A profound thought. If we are merely looking at getting back to normal, then we are missing out on a very important lesson the Lord is teaching each of us through the lockdown in our own neighborhoods. Those who live next door to us are very important to Him—He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This unique opportunity is a lesson of a lifetime for us who are in His Church. He is orchestrating a new normal for the Church.
Working in your harvest field is very much like working in a garden. My son David has planted an amazing garden in his backyard and he is passing on the produce to different neighbors. Since the lockdown, he has devoted much time and effort to making sure that his garden is growing well and producing. As Jesus’ gardeners, let’s look at what is needed to produce a harvest in our neighborhoods.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9, NIV).
Digging up the ground and pulling weeds may not seem rewarding, but it is so necessary in preparation for planting and harvesting. Thanks to David, jo and I now have a garden that we have carved out in our backyard. The new plants are growing great now, but it required pulling out an overgrown bush that took a lot of time and hard work, and then digging up the soil and putting in soil amendments. The same is true when it comes to our neighborhoods—our spiritual garden. If we want to see something grow in our neighborhood it requires the hard work of praying and caring for our neighbors. Add acts of kindness and the soil is prepared. A Christian who lives across the street from us faithfully walks a neighbor’s dog and weekly grocery shops for an elderly woman up the street. These kinds of activities spread goodwill and prepares neighbors to hear the seeds of the gospel. The operative words Paul uses in the verse above are doing good. Peter said of Jesus in Acts 10:38, “…he went around doing good...” I know of many who have devoted themselves to this kind of hard work with neighbors and have not given up and they are now reaping a harvest.
“I (Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (I Corinthians 3:6).
When the soil is finally prepared and all the soil amendments are put in, it’s time to plant. jo is the planter in our family, but of course she likes it when I dig the holes for the new plants. I love watering and watching the plants grow. Most importantly, jo knows just the right time of year to plant a certain plant or vegetable. If you plant out of season they won’t survive. The same is true when casting the seeds of the gospel. Paul says in Colossians 4: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (kairos).” To spread the words of the gospel in the heart of a neighbor when they aren’t ready can do more harm than good. Most of us have experienced this with a family member or friend. I know I have. However, when a neighbor’s heart is ready, it is amazing how everything flows in the conversation. A receptive heart receives the seeds of the truth found in the gospel and the Lord causes them to grow.
With the pandemic, we are living in an unprecedented season when neighbors are more open to talk with us and we need to take advantage of this rare opportunity. All we have to do is ask them a question like this: “How are you doing with all that’s going on?” I asked this same question of our next-door neighbor and for the first time, he opened up and shared that he was under terrible stress, because as a professor he prefers to be with his students in the classroom and not on Zoom. He has shared more each time we have met in our neighborhood. He has always been resistant to talking about God, but his heart is becoming more vulnerable. Please pray for me “that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:3,4) and I will pray the same for you.
Please share what is going on in your garden.
By Lynn Cory
What a thoughtful reflection on tending to our spiritual gardens and nurturing our neighborhoods during these unprecedented times! Your analogy of digging, weeding, planting, and watering resonates deeply. Indeed, this season offers unique opportunities to connect with our neighbors and sow the seeds of goodwill and faith. Thank you for the encouragement and reminder to be patient and discerning in our interactions.