We are your Gardners

by: Peter Karanja I Associate Pastor for Community Engagement

Text: Gen 3:7-10, Psalms 8:4-9, and Matthew 26:36-40

Which tree is this? 

photo of a tree with thick trunk and sparse top

African Baobab Tree – as the name suggests it is commonly found in Africa and it can grow up 82 feet high and 45 feet in diameter, it bears large white flowers, and bears fruits that are very nutritious. 

The act of identifying plants and flowers has been a very long tradition among human beings and in Hebrew Bible that we call the Old Testament one of the assigned tasks of Adam in the garden of Eden was to identify, name and classify them. 

It’s fascinating how this act has been a treading thing to do to many today. It is no longer only among scientists and botanists to identify and classify the plants and trees anymore, anyone can do it. You only need a smartphone with a plant identifying app that can easily help you identify a ton of information about plants or flowers once you take a picture and scan it. 

I looked it up in google and I was able to count about 29 apps that can scan plants and flowers for their identity.  And there are many more that are still in the making. 

Lol! I don’t like my app that much because its search engine isn’t as accurate as I would expect…anyways. I won’t mention it here. I hope it gets better. 

Like some of us I wasn’t a big fan of gardening or Agriculture as a subject while growing up because the images that were presented to me were not entertaining at all. Handworking in an open field in a scorching sun, dirt, more sweat, required to master these long botanical names and so much more. In short, there wasn’t anything fun about gardening. To worsen things in my former high school all the students were required to tend and care for the small plots as part of our project and of course create herbarium files. This was a collection of preserved plant specimens. We could use these specimens to identify plants, to track where and when particular plants grow, and to help understand how plants are influenced by climate change and other environmental factors. 

Here is the short video clip of how the herbarium book would look like. 

Herbarium video clip

One of our goals was to collect as many plant species around the school. Bearing in mind that the bigger and diverse our herbarium booklets the better because in the exam the teacher would pick any plant or leaf and ask all the descriptions. 

This was a special book that as students we held with a lot of care because it was fragile and a source of knowledge. As students we would hardly share this book with anyone because no one would love to redo or see their book in bad shape simply because of the amount of work invested in the collection and crafting the specimen was priceless. 

Thanks be to God many high schoolers TODAY don’t have to go through this drill of crafting this book. The emergence of technology has lessened the burden for students and to the gardeners. 

The information of these plants are readily available and accessible to anyone who wishes to find it just by a click or a touch on the screen. How fun! Thanks to many app developers that work tirelessly to see that we have the information that we need. This is a great breakthrough for our generation. 

As we learnt on Thursday at Worship in the Garden. We do share so much in common with plants and trees than we know. 

Scientists and botanists continue to marvel at the new finds from the garden. Intelligent Trees, a documentary that was released about 3 years ago. Peter Wohlleben a German forester and scientist Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia in Canada do a great job of investigating and observing the existing communications between trees and find out that trees talk, know family ties and care for their young  ones through mycorrhizal networks. Is that amazing? This breaks long held belief and a stereotype of survival for the fittest in the jungle. 

The plants and trees do feel the impact of the environment and just like people they migrate in search of conducive weather where they would survive as a species. 

It is sad that global warming continues to cause more harm to our ecosystem across the globe. Last week we saw so much destruction due to the storm here in Omaha. According to channel 6 News many people were affected by the storm and lost their properties but even more many cries of the fallen trees that had a long history. 

One of the victims, Hedi Lowe, lost a tree in her yard that was more than 80 years old. She said that she will miss the shade it provided in the summer but she’s grateful for the way her old friend went out. “Very fortunately, it fell away from the house and away from the cars and nobody was under it.”

Do you remember the ME plant?  

collage of photos showing a flower with red leaves in the church garden

If you didn’t know, it gave us a new seed, a baby. 

photo of a flower with yellow leaves in the church garden

A strong new burgundy sunflower. For those of you who don’t know about the ME plant it was this volunteer plant that grew in the big garden and no one knew what it was but we were kind enough to wait to see what it grows to become as opposed to weeding it. What a  gift to us and the Big Garden.  We cultivated “wonder” at what is granted to us as a gift. As gardeners we are not a passive recipient of a gift but belong with or among what is given. 

To experience the garden as a gift is not only to have a sense of nature as a gift, but of ourselves too as belonging to this gift. It is not just nature, but culture-and-nature, the whole world of experience that is being felt as a gift, as something that is received and to be enjoyed. 

The gift of garden is well familiar too among our brothers and sisters who practice Buddhism. Buddhist adore their Zen gardens that are said to have started in the 11th century and they are deeply part of living and culture in countries like Japan. The Zen gardens have been created outside their temples with the sole purpose of meditation and self-discovery. 

In today’s scripture we do have this clear picture of God being described as a person who is walking and enjoying the wind breeze of the garden and walking around seeing the beauty of the garden. I believe God at the same time was networking with trees and plants. On the other hand we have Adam and Eve busy prioritizing their needs by sewing pants using fig leaves. I do hope they were successful with their sewing. 

In our second reading we get to see Jesus was a big fan of gardens. On many occasions after healing and performing many miracles he would retire to the garden to recharge.  One of the famous gardens that Jesus would visit is the Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is at this particular garden Jesus showed his divine nature as he accepted God’s will, even though it meant his suffering and death. 

Gardens have been the places where God met our long gone beloved friends and family. I still believe that God is still in the gardens. Church we might ask and wonder in which garden can we find God? Gardens are everywhere in our lawn, neighborhoods, parks and even to bigger gardens like the Amazon in South America and Rain forest in Congo that our survival depends on. 

It is upon us to be diligent and fearless when we get to hear the call in the garden. Let us not allow the business and un-ending consumerization of the world to hinder us from networking with God.   

God through Jesus today is inviting us to the garden of contemplation, love, care, acceptance no matter how far we have all have wandered. 

One thing is for sure we are beloved and we are not afraid today to listen and network with God who loves us so much.  We are God’s gardeners of different colors, race, language, gender, and sexual orientation. Thanks be to God we are your gardeners.  Amen!

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