I am feeling a little out-of-sorts this summer. Not only have I been consumed with the tasks required by my classes and the seeming never-ending event of moving so many earthly possessions from one locale to another, but my family did not plant a garden! We put a few new plants in the flower beds but decided we didn’t have the time to fool with a food garden this year. After all, we wouldn’t even be here to enjoy the fruits of the labor. For the first time in recent history, I do not have a garden to cultivate.
I know that my humble garden did not compare to the land that some of you toil in all summer long. I know many in this area subsist on the money that comes when the harvest is taken to market. My little food gardens only supplemented the rest of the meal which came from the nearby Kroger.
As most of our society becomes increasingly reliant on Kroger and Walmart for our daily bread, I am reminded of the first humans placed in the garden to till and keep it. They are the first models of stewardship in our Biblical narrative. They weren’t successful for long, but what God instructed them to do still applies to us: be the caregivers.
Throughout the Hebrew Bible relationship with God, one another, and the land was crucial for survival. There were offerings of fruit, grain, and animals as part of the balancing act of receiving from and giving back to God. There were provisions for the poor and the alien. Leviticus 19:9-10 instructed them not to glean the whole field thus leaving food to the poor and the traveler. Offering hospitality to strangers in the land was required (Lev. 19.34) Anyone who entered the territory was to be kept as a resident; God reminded them, “You were once slaves, and I delivered you out of the land of Egypt.” There was even blessed Sabbath for the hardworking land.
As we wave our flags to celebrate independence from an unjust ruler, may we also remember to care for the “spacious skies” and “amber waves of grain” “above the fruited plain.” May we remember to care for it and one another. May we thank God for these provisions. This is God’s Shalom. It is our gift from the beginning of time. May we work for it to be so for everyone, today and always.
I am grateful to be your pastor,