Last weekend St. Paul made room in its gathering spaces for an annual garden share. All shapes, sizes, and colors of food were carried in from the church’s community garden. Box-loads were brought in from personal gardens, too. Even if fresh fruits and vegetables do not make your mouth water, you could appreciate the artistically diverse spread on each of the tables.
“Shopping” for produce in this setting is a little bit different from what you might experience at a local grocery store. At a place like Hy-Vee you usually find that each of the tomatoes is the same, bright color of red and has a smooth, round shape. Or you see carrots that are straight, long, and pointy at the ends. At the garden share, there was no uniform look to the tomatoes and carrots at all. Some tomatoes were bulbous. Some carrots were crooked. Some were multicolored. Some were big and some were small.
Whereas a grocer might not put out some of the “odd”-looking produce, anything was welcome on the tables of the garden share. In fact, sometimes the more uniquely shaped fruits and vegetables are the most delicious! The star of the show last weekend was probably one of the most alarming plants: the massive, snakelike cucuzza squashes. (If you took one of those home, be sure to let us know how it tastes!)
Gardens can offer so many wonderful metaphors for the church. Small seeds grow into elaborate works of art. Each variety of plant requires a specific form of attention and care. One plot of soil can provide a home for so many different species of flora.
What struck me while I watched bags full of goodies go home with happy, hungry people was that there was a place and purpose for everything. Even the smallest potato could be mashed with the rest. Even the sourest grape was not left off of the bunch. Even the hottest pepper could make some brave soul sweat.
I hope that we can treat each other with the same state of mind. That we can live free from the evils of discrimination, and make sure that differences between us are celebrated instead of demonized. Jesus is often quoted as saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek.” And he lived his life accordingly, challenging us to do the same.
God’s love is a lot bigger than the love we are used to in the world. And it pushes past labels and boundaries that we come across in our daily lives. Let’s find the courage to do the same, and reach out to new people in our lives – outcasts, “rotten” fruits and vegetables – who may need that love the most.