A gospel that leaves out its cosmic scope will always feel small. A gospel that has as its chief message avoiding hell or not sinning will never be the full story. A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the "in-ness" of one group at the expense of the "out-ness" of another group will not be true to the story that includes "all things and people in heaven and on earth."
~Rob Bell

Growing Into New Life

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When I was about 4, we had just moved “out to the country,” and my parents wanted to grow a garden. The problem was that the soil there at our “new” house was hard white clay that even grass and weeds had a hard time growing in, so my parents went to work to make it more fertile.

First, Dad had the area plowed, and then he tilled it by hand. Then we took our food scraps, week after week, to spread out on the garden-to-be. Man, did it stink! I hated when it was my turn to take the scraps out, wishing I had a 10-foot pole to hold the bucket on far away from my nose! On top of that, we spread the ashes from our fireplace all over the garden, too.

We did this for years, but it made this less than fertile ground a place of abundant growth – not to mention tasty veggies! The once hard, white clay became rich, brown soil. Out of death (non-fertile ground & food scraps) and ashes, new life burst forth.

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Lent is a time of preparation for new life on Easter, so a Lenten practice I encouraged the families of the church I serve to take part in was to plant something together and care for it with water and sunlight (noting that they didn’t have to use the stinky food scraps unless they  just wanted to). “Together,” I encouraged, “you can watch new life burst forth from the dead ground (or dirt in a pot) in anticipation of the new life of Christ that burst forth from the grave on Easter.”

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Honestly, even though I encouraged our church families to take part in this activity, we did not do this this year.  However, as I reflected on what these families might have been experiencing, I remembered that my son, Micah, and I did this last year.

I remember well the excitement Micah had because he had been given a “kit” that included dirt, a cup, and a lima bean.  We planted it, and EVERY morning, one of the first things Micah wanted to look at was to see if his plant had grown yet.  We kept it watered and made sure it got lots of sunlight.  It seemed to take forever, but eventually something green began to protrude from the lifeless dirt making Micah all the more excited.

It didn’t take long before it began to have more form, and though it had been years since I’d seen a lima bean plant, I couldn’t help but think that this did not at all look like a lima bean plant.  The more it grew the more clear it became that it was not a lima bean but a stalk of Johnson grass – a prominent weed in Texas (maybe in Maryland / DC, too).  Fueled by Micah’s excitement, though, we continued to check on it, water it, and make sure it got plenty of sunlight.  Before you knew it, we had a 1 1/2 foot tall Johnson grass plant.  The lima bean never grew.

As I think about the life of faith, it takes a lot of practice and effort to make it fruitful, and how often are we disappointed that what grows is not what we expected or wanted?I was certainly disappointed as I wanted Micah to get a chance to eat lima beans that he had grown himself like I did as a child (even though I really disliked lima beans).  And yet, Micah was not disappointed at all.  He had grown something.  Maybe that is all that was needed.

I wonder what that tells us about having a child-like faith.

I wonder what that tells us about giving up something for Lent.

I wonder what that tells us about resurrection and new life.

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