Friday, October 29, 2010

Homegrown tomatoes

Tomatoes seem to always get me into trouble.

I got my start growing tomatoes when I lived in Georgia.  Gardening in red clay was an adventure, and by August I usually gave up on the was just too hot to weed anymore.  When I give my reasons for moving from Colorado to Iowa I say that we weren't able to grow tomatoes living at 8,000 feet on the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

When we first moved to Iowa I was woo'd by the Burpee catalog that came to my mailbox in January, so 6 weeks before the last frost date I started seeds for the first time. I had a ridiculous number of tomato plants that germinated - no one should ever plant 25 cherry tomato plants!   I finally gave the kids permission to chunk the tomatoes at each other - the Wellsburg tomato wars of 2002 are legendary.

When we moved to the parsonage in Apple River, IL Lyle Temperly, my neighbor across the street, and I had a running joke about his midnight excursions to 'steal' some of my tomatoes...I would then serenade him with the the song "homegrown tomatoes"
Lyle and Justin (2004)

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
there ain't nothing like homegrown tomatoes!
There's only two things in life worth givin'
thats: true love and homegrown tomatoes!

When I wrote my commissioning papers (part of the process to become an ordained United Methodist pastor) under Hobbies I wrote 'growing tomatoes' - this one comment generated some interesting conversation with my Board of Ordained Ministry committee.

We've moved twice since then and I'm always able to find a place to grow tomatoes (and basil and fresh sage - the other two musts for my kitchen garden).  This year when we moved to Waverly there wasn't a plot for a vegetable garden, so I tucked a couple of tomato plants in among the perennial bed that surrounds the parsonage.

Overnight last night we had a hard frost, which means that tomato season is now done.  It also signals that winter really IS around the corner and that we had best prepare for what ever may be next.  For Iowans that means digging out winter coats, boots and such, perhaps tuning up the snowblower too (tho I have 2 able bodied sons - so no snowblower for me).

This week my denomination released a Call to Action report.  It's getting a lot of buzz - especially among those who fear it does not go far enough.  I don't know if any denomination/institution is really nimble or prepared to go far enough to make huge institutional changes...we are by and large all about preserving what we know and love, warts and all some times.

So what does that mean for those who are calling for MORE change?  Well it means that we must love deeper and realize that our hope does not rest in the institution...but should not forget that there is value in what has gathered us together as God's people.

"He took bread, blessed and broke it.
and gave it to them.  Then their eyes
were opened."  Luke 24:30-31
We also need to realize that some people are not able to dig deeper and become radical disciples of Jesus Christ - they are however going to do their best to live good and faithful lives and they are going to want to be part of a community of faith - we have to make room for them to hear the gospel and enter into community and then trust that the Holy Spirit will move them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

And those who do want to dive in and drink deeply as people of faith, what about them you ask?   We have to have ways to offer them more - more challenging mission/service opportunities, more thoughtful and thought provoking Bible studies, more encounters with the living three-in-one God!

And those who do not yet know the love of God?  We need to step out of our brick and mortar buildings and meet them where they are - and walk alongside them...modeling the same kind of love and acceptance that we have come to know through reading about Jesus' own life and ministry and through our own experiences as precious children of God.

There are lots of different ways to 'do' and 'be' in ministry, but shouldn't we really think of ministry as being 'with' someone  - along 'with' them on their journey?  Surely there are more faithful, engaging and incarnational ways that our denomination can equip leaders (lay and clergy alike) to explore their spiritual gifts and live into our baptismal vows.  To do this will take intentional focus, vision and hard work...I think that is the crux of the matter - are we willing to invest more of ourselves to be intentional Kingdom builders?  I have to ask myself - as a church leader am I using my own time wisely?  Am I doing all I can to share the good news of Jesus Christ?  Am I equipping others to go and do the same?

During this season ahead my garden will lie fallow as the winds blow and the winter snows come.  But I know that in the spring the soil will be ready to receive new seeds and from it will spring new life...even a couple of homegrown tomatoes will find their way amidst the black-eyed Susan's, roses and cosmos.

I am really excited to find myself in the midst of times such as these - as long as our focus remains on Christ and our dialog is based on truth, hope, mercy and justice we can learn a lot from one another.  We may even learn something new.  I know I need to use this season of my life to dig deeper and focus on my current appointment in Waverly.  God is doing great things here - and I have much to do.  I need to be prepared for however God is calling me to walk with others in our community.

the last ones...
This weekend I will savor the last homegrown tomatoes from my garden...and perhaps I will find someone to share one or two with - cause thats what you do with homegrown tomatoes - and thats what we all should be doing with God's love too.    

peace, love in Christ

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