Seeds of Hope
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have died.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14b
In the heart of San Pedro, California is an urban farm and outdoor sanctuary known as, “The Garden Church.” Squeezed between vacant buildings is a dirt lot with garden beds, pots, a few picnic tables, a couple of canopies, and a stump for a table in the middle of it all. Founding Pastor Anne Woofenden says that the most common question she receives on Sundays is, “Where is the church?”
“Right here…This is where we have worship; we sing and pray and read scripture and share communion. And the picnic tables are where we share a meal together. This is all church.”
At Garden Church they nurture the earth and the nurture relationships. They grow food for themselves and for the community. It’s not a utopia but there is something amazing taking place there.
Pastor Anne shares, “We were frequently surprised by what happens when you mix planting artichokes and saying prayers. One morning a young man came in with his mom, who had been crying. ‘My dad died a few days ago, and we’re so sad.’
The Thessalonians knew this kind of grief. Some loved ones from within their church had perished and they were worried. Were they lost forever? Would Jesus remember them? Was there any hope?
Within their hearts Paul nurtured hope. Paul reminded them of what Christ had accomplished in order to affirm what Christ will do. He stoked the embers of their hope by reminding them that resurrection, life overcoming death, is not just a past event but an everyday hope. We still yet await the fullness of reconciliation with God and with one another. A hope made certain for Christ is Lord.
Pastor Anne understood the hope of what will yet be and she said to the boy, “Can we pray with you?’ And can we plant this rosemary bush in the prayer garden to remember him by?” They both nodded.
Pastor Anne writes, “I gathered everyone who was working in the garden, and we put our hands on their shoulders and prayed.” I then bent down and invited the boy to join me as we put our trowels into the earth and dug a hole for the little rosemary plant. ‘Can I get some water?’ he asked. I nodded, ‘Yes,’ and he poured water on the plant, mixed with his tears.’
For a while the boy returned to water the plant but over time his visits dried up.
Two years later, two gangly teenagers came through the gates. “Do you know where the rosemary plants are?” The church member at the gate was a bit puzzled, “Hmm . . . I’m not sure.” Pastor Anne looked up and recognized him: “The rosemary you planted for your dad?” The boy’s face lit up. “Yes, it’s right over here. Look how it’s grown!”
Church, let us give thanks to God for nurturing hope within us this day.