I did not grow up with gardening. We always lived in a single family home with a yard but we really didn’t garden – flowers or food. My parents both grew up in apartments in the Bronx, NY so they didn’t have experience with gardening. My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up. She was from a small agricultural village in Bavaria, Germany. She always grew rose bushes and tomatoes. She did things with eggshells and coffee grounds. But I simply was not familiar with gardening.
Now, as an adult, I have two plots at the Azalea Community Gardens near our house. I took up gardening over 10 years ago because I wanted our kids to know where food came from. They were older by then, but I thought it was never too late. [One son now actually works on a farm!] What I discovered is that I actually enjoy gardening. We have grown peppers and eggplant and watermelon and arugula and edamame and beans and sweet potatoes and beets and Egyptian spinach and many other things depending on the year. I like keeping an eye on things in the garden. I like going up there to water. I like chitchatting with the other gardeners; hearing about what is going on in the neighborhood. It’s a good, healthy, outdoor hobby.
So, this past January, my husband Jeff and I both got covid at the same time from our grandsons. As these things go, you don’t have the chance to plan and stock up on certain items or get certain errands out of the way. No prep time. No ‘storm warning.’ We ended up being on what I call ‘house arrest’ for 2 weeks. Friends and people from church were offering to help out. Do a grocery store run for us. Things like that. But as it turned out, we had plenty of food on hand and we had lots of produce to eat from the garden! We had cauliflower, broccoli, peas, kale, Swiss chard, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuce, and lemongrass for tea. And we had parsley, mint, rosemary, and other herbs for flavoring. So we actually had plenty of food.
To me, the garden has always been a hobby. For fun. I have never really considered it a significant source of food. But during our bout with covid the garden actually sustained us when we could not go to the store. We had plenty of produce!
I think church can be like this. Kind of like a hobby. We go. We like the music. We like to see the people. We like the enrichment and inspiration. And that is all well and good.
But then we hit a rough patch. Someone close to us dies. A loved one enters a treatment facility for addiction. Russia invades Ukraine. We get a dreaded diagnosis. Our job is eliminated and we lose our needed income. There’s a pandemic and a lockdown. Life closes in on us.
And there is the church. No longer a ‘hobby’ for enrichment, but our anchor, our shelter, our refuge, our lifeline, sustaining us through a storm. Holding us up when we could easily be bowled over. Bringing us through something that could have taken us down. Supporting us with light and hope when things look really bleak.
As some point, we all find ourselves struggling, trying to cope, finding life a challenge. In the wildness of mercy, the church is here to sustain us and uplift us and carry us through!
If you are reading this and you are not part of a church, I highly encourage you to consider finding a congregation that suits you. You might not think being part of a church is important right now, but the day will come when you are grateful for it! And that church just might need you.
Imagine the produce section of the grocery store filled with nutritious, delicious, colorful fruits and vegetables for you to enjoy. See the amazing variety of apples and greens and berries. All manner of things! Give thanks for the abundance that we have access to so that we can feed our bodies. Now think of the church and all that it provides. Meaningful relationships, music, moral grounding, spiritual inspiration, purpose, transformation of individuals and the world, Jesus, the reality of God, visions of justice and peace. And so much more! Also an amazing abundance to nourish and sustain the spirit. In good times and in bad. Give thanks for the church and the amazing wildness of mercy! Amen.