Chuck Terrill: The preacherís garden
My garden raised a few eyebrows before it raised anything else. I planted it within a few yards of Haverhill Christian Church. It was just a little unusual to see vegetables growing that close to a church located five miles from the nearest town. Those who passed by were amused and amazed to see a hoe wielding, suit wearing preacher tending his garden.
My congregation wanted to know why I planted a garden next to the church. I thought it was obvious.†I planned to irrigate it with the water that I drained regularly from the†baptistry.†It takes quite a bit of water to immerse people. I figured that my garden would produce State Fair record vegetables if it was grown with holy water. I was wrong.†It really didn't do that well. I think that all of those sins that were washed away were killing my crops.
A preacher and a gardener have a lot in common.
A preacher's garden is dependent upon proper soil preparation. Jesus talked about the right kind of soil in the Gospel of Mark, chapter four. There comes a time when all of the conditions are right for planting.†The preacher has to get down in the dirt. He knows that a good gardener doesn't just read about gardening. He can't stay in a plush office imagining what it would be like to raise a crop.†The good preacher knows what it is like to work, dig, cultivate, weed, and water the tender plants.
The preacher's garden has much to do with carefully nurturing growth. He plants a seed, and miracle of miracles, a new life begins!†The good preacher knows that it is his responsibility to cultivate that new life. It is his great joy to watch and care for, and even measure the progress of growth. He prays for the success of every new life.††
It is a high calling to nurture a seedling to maturity. Grasshoppers plague it. Aphids infest it.†Weeds spring up that desire to choke the life out of it. The sun beats down and threatens to burn it up. By the sweat of his brow a good preacher has to deal with the effects of sin and frustration.†††
Even though he chops weeds with a vengeance, the preacher sometimes loses a seedling.†It sprang up quickly and looked so promising.†He is disappointed, but he continues to trust in the Lord's promises.
There will be a harvest.†The Kingdom will grow!†Sometimes imperceptible at first, progress is being made. Some plants are beginning to mature. Soon they will begin to reproduce. The early labor of spring eventually gives way to the thrill of the harvest.
The harvest is the joy of the preacher's garden. He sees the ancient struggle against sin and Satan being played out in his own church yard. Despite setbacks, he dedicates himself to sowing and reaping, over and over again. It is his calling to pray, nurture, and protect. He waits patiently for God's harvest. The harvest is coming; God has promised.
"Do not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap a harvest if we do not grow weary" (Galatians†6:9)
Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-2460.