Back in the Garden

March 16, 2023 by Maggie Harmon

“Oh, how foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Luke 24:25-26

I am a gardener, or at any rate I like to be busy playing in the dirt. So in some ways it is often easy for me to relate to the “growing” metaphors and parables that Jesus uses to teach us about spiritual life.

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that there are seasons, though nature makes that obvious if we pay attention; there are cycles at micro and macro levels that we respond to and live with and that guide our being. And there are all the lessons of patience, change, challenge, bounty, acceptance, disappointment, and fundamentally survival all contained in Jesus talking about plants, and gardens, trees, and fruit.

Truly if we pay attention we can get all the lessons we need about life, death, and resurrection right in a small plot of land. And yet somehow it seems that in the busyness of our lives, or in our intellectual pursuits, we have moved too far away from the lessons of the earth, too far from the humus that makes us humble, as we seek to understand how to be people of spirit. So too in this season that largely is celebrating the promise that exists in Jesus’ resurrection it can be easy to forget what it took, what it asks, to get there.

Jesus himself teaches that a grain of wheat is only a small grain until it “dies” so that the expansive potential that grain contains can be released to nourish multitudes. One tomato seed at the beginning of the season can ultimately become a plant so large that it will feed a family all summer and stock the freezer for the fall and winter, too. Jesus touched many during his earthly ministry, but was only able to awaken in every heart when he passed through death and was released into resurrected, vast spirit.

Stewardship, at its core, calls us to live our belief in this promise of spiritual power, by being earthly gardeners in our lives, in our congregations, and in our communities. We have to be willing to trust that expansive potential in all of the “seeds” we hold. Sometimes that means releasing more of our financial resources, or it might means letting go of certain programs of the church that have completed their cycle. It might be having the faith to see in our church properties the potential of a grain of wheat, allowing them to feed many by letting go of the comfort of the status quo.

As stewards of the church, care-takers, gardeners of this institution that is built to nurture in so many ways, we must take our role seriously and honestly. We must be willing to ask: what season are we in? what works need to be done right now? Is it time to plant, to harvest, to compost, or to rest? What must I release so that it can become what it is meant to be?

The hardest part of gardening for me is faith; faith that the seed I planted deep in the earth is doing something, even though I can’t see it. Faith, that my hope for growth will be realized. I can only do the work I can do, care at the right time in the right way, and then I have to have faith as I patiently wait and trust. Even as the miracle happens again and again and reminds me of what it means to live a life that proclaims the miracle of resurrection. If I release the seed, surely in the spring the sweet shoots of green remind me of my role in God’s garden.

Maggie Harmon serves as the Ministry Relations Officer for the Southwest. Maggie’s experience includes 20 years of legal practice, management consulting, and leadership coaching. She is a member of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Calif., and serves as a Ruling Elder and coordinates the service team. Maggie holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California—Davis and a Juris Doctorate from the Santa Clara University School of Law. She also has certification in leadership, organizational growth, and social science from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.