Here is the 6th of the Friday Night in the Garden Vespers series.
How does a garden grow? It grows with thought and planning. It grows with the right combination of water and nutrients. And it grows because someone went out and dug up the ground, planted the seeds, and added the water and nutrients.
On a number of occasions Jesus spoke of the efforts of people to plant seeds. In the parable of the sower, some of the seeds fell on bare ground where the birds ate them, some of the seeds fell on the rocky ground and died because the soil lacked the right moisture, and some of the seeds fell among the weeds and were choked by those weeds. When there is competition for the nutrients, there will be problems for the plants. But if the ground is cleared and properly prepared, the seeds that you want to grow will do so and the rewards will be evident.
It is possible to plant seeds in the ground somewhere, do nothing to them or for them and come back later to find a fantastic flower garden, some beautiful fruit trees, or some edible grains. We all recall the story of Johnny Appleseed walking across Ohio and Indiana planting apple trees wherever he went. And while it is a nice story, what he did plant were apple orchards, carefully cultivating them and setting them up for people to use. His was a missionary effort not unlike Paul traveling around Asia Minor, planting churches and spreading the Gospel message. Those he met and taught then went and started their own churches.
The garden that became the church in Colossus was first planted by Epaphras. Epaphras was a convert to Christianity after having met Paul probably in prison. The nurturing environment in which the church in Colossus grew was founded in faith, love, and hope. The Colossians’ faith was grounded in the nature and work of Jesus Christ. Love flows from faith and proves the genuineness of one’s faith. Hope is the result of that faith.
Paul writes to the Colossians to remind them that they, neither Epaphras nor the church congregation, are alone in the care of this garden. All who Paul meets are told of the growth of the Gospel and those who Paul tells are brought in for the purpose of carrying for the garden.
So too is it for us. While we may look at the wonderful flowers that bloom in these gardens and we rejoice in the vegetables that are harvested for the food closet, we also know that these gardens represent more than that. They represent a rebirth of hope in a town that many have said has no hope, no future. But if God can rescue us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons (Colossians 1: 13), then perhaps a simple garden can brighten up a spot and let hope shine throw.
A garden grows because people care about it and for it. The message of the Gospel spreads because people care about the message and want others to hear the promise of hope that the Gospel brings. We might come to a garden alone, to enjoy what it offers, but while we are here, we find more than wonderful flowers to smell and look at, we see more than vegetables. We sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. And when we leave, though we came alone, we do not leave alone. We leave with the Holy Spirit, refreshed and renewed, prepared to spread the seed of the Gospel wherever we may go in the next few days.