In the beginning was the Word, and the Word choreographed an assembly of amino acids into an exquisite array of specific proteins. Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” In so doing God demonstrated a penchant for genomic writing, preceded by an amazing series of prebiotic events, in a highly orchestrated presentation of evolutionary over-control.
Ok, well, maybe John expressed it a little differently when he said: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In the days that Christ walked the earth as Jesus of Nazareth, he certainly knew about all those “pre-biotic events,” but his audience only knew seed that is sown in good soil quickly germinates. They did practice crop rotation so they knew it somehow benefits from an environment below the surface where the soil has retained much of that which nourishes.
They clearly understood that, once planted, a seedling can develop deep roots for water and nourishment while, at the same time, reaching for the warmth and nourishing rays from the sun. With the help of intentional sowers, it can become fully established early to take the best advantage of a long growing season. They also knew something about the laws of fruitfulness because, in the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, when the farmer told the vinedresser to ‘Cut it down.” Saying ‘Why should it use up the ground?’ The head gardener offered instead to dig around it and put on fertilizer.
Like the gardener, the sower of Gospel seed may remain in place to tend the fields. Whether the sower also plays a role in nurture and growth is largely a matter of circumstance and tradition. Where there are others to whom cultivation may be entrusted, the sower may move on down the road, for there are always other fields to be seeded. Sowing is a speciality similar to that of the Circuit Riders of the early church. Today, they not only carry good seed, the circuit riders also engage in a certain amount of cross pollination.
Just as seedlings depend upon a rich variety of relationships within and above the soil, other communities need such complementary associations if they too are to thrive. To the seedling it is interactions with the microbial biomass together with the life sustaining water and the beneficial rays of the sun. To us, it is the love, mutual support, and the encouragement we enjoy courtesy of our fellows. This is augmented by the inspiration we receive as we grow to appreciate the attitude of bestowal as evidenced by the sojourn of our beloved Sovereign while he showed his desire to come close to the life he created.
His mercy, his patience, his wise understanding was on full display as Jesus worked to understand our viewpoint through the incarnation experience. As he labored, to help us focus upon the qualities of good soil, he was also teaching us to build up foundations in the interest of authentic community. The individuals that express real appreciation for one another, are the same ones that have taken the time to know what truly motivates those in our midst. These are the building blocks of authentic community and congregations that are truly vibrant.
Few, if any, of those bearing responsibility for pastoral care would be content with tending the mission field equivalent of an ornamental garden. We are, after all, not called to build clubs of self-righteous exclusivity. A spiritual rebirth is not brought about through a program of selective inbreeding. We are instead focused upon the seed bearing and fruit bearing qualities of those within our sphere of influence. Of course all fruit production requires pollination and this is especially important with the Fruits of the Spirit. If the essentials of our faith can not be wisely and effectively socialized or shared, its value to a greater humanity is diminished.
A true understanding of the laws of spiritual fruitfulness is informed by what happens in the physical world. Pollination is an essential part of insuring agricultural crops, as well as human communities, grow to full fruition. Every spring, nearly half (about one million hives) of the honey bees in the United States are trucked to California almond orchards. In New York, the apple crop requires about 30,000 hives and Maine’s blueberry crop uses about 50,000 portable hives each year.
We live in a time when people display plants in their home that derive all the moisture and nutrients they need from the surrounding air. We enjoy salads that are produced through a water culture known as hydroponics. We have soil that is so depleted there is little of what nourishes and the microbial biomass necessary to replenish it has been poisoned. We also have a new generation of growers that view the entire process of growth in a more holistic manner. For much of what is contained in the soil can be carried by other means.
The challenges inherent to building authentic community are similar. When we view those within our unique sphere of influence as Jesus did, we are blessed with a greatly enhanced view of what’s on the horizon. We are better equipped to fulfill his commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”