Sermon for March 20, 2022               Lent 3                          “Being the Gardener”

Rodney Clapp in his commentary on the Luke text writes; “Self-righteous anger. If emotions were cuisine, this would be the piece de resistance, the dish we love to linger over and return to, time and time again. Anger by itself does not taste so good. It is bitter and leaves an aftertaste. On the other hand, self-righteousness there is the seasoning that makes plain old hamburger anger irresistible. Self-righteous anger goes down smoothly. It makes us feel superior. It elevates us above lesser mortals, not to mention our enemies. So long as we have it on our plates, the confusing grayness of the wearisome world goes away. It is bracingly, refreshingly clear that we are the good ones and those others are the bad ones. If all these were not enough, self-righteous anger also reheats wonderfully and tastes just fine the next day and the next.”

In this teaching we realize that the owner is not the gardener. We also come to the humbling realization that the sin of others is not greater than mine. We so often diminish our sin or what we have to own as ours, and inflate the sin of others for all sorts of reasons. Mostly so that we can cling to self-righteousness. What we can know with certainty is that forgiveness is from God and we are not consultants or advisors to God. To know we all live with the capacity for good and ill, and we all live under the grace of God’s forgiveness calls us to responsibility and to awe.

The teaching calls us to be gardeners not only of our personal live but also our corporate lives. We live today on the foundational pieces of our ancestors. For St. Marks it was from the first gathering in homes and a barn, to the vision of a place a worship and over the years many places of worship. The result being where we are today.

I have heard it said that the best time to plant a shade tree is thirty years ago, the next best time is today. We live in the shade of the faithfulness of those who planted before us, and we are thankful.

We live today, being called to tend a garden that is different in texture and context than our ancestors. We had big dreams a few years ago and COVID forced us into a fallow time. I time of anxious and even nervous waiting. Like the owner of the field we want to see results now and being patient with the way gardens grow is difficult.

Yet we are beginning to be able to till the soil, dust off plans and ideas, see if they are still relevant or if they have gone past their best before date. We are called to the work of tending to all that we were forced to let sit and tend to the new and emerging.

One of the great acts of faith (for most of us) is planting a shade tree. We will enjoy its growth but the shade it will offer will be for the next generations. Our work and witness today is an expression of our faith and the faith that God will guide the church in directions that we cannot imagine but faithfully prepare the soil for today.

Being angry that it is not happening fast enough or pointing fingers that divert blame serve no useful purpose. Called to be gardeners of our lives, the life of St. Marks, of our community, country and world will require our patience, toil and faith. And once the seed is in the ground we practice that oh so difficult task of trusting God.

As we turn to our annual meeting we will celebrate what has been accomplished this past year, we will give thanks to the many who worked and prayed for the mission of Jesus and we will give thanks to the saints whose lives continue with God. And we will humbly accept the call to Jesus to continue the task of being faithful gardeners and tenders of the people of God.