In a couple of weeks, I will make an annual pilgrimage.
That annual pilgrimage is the Cobb County Master Gardeners Tour to which a friend has invited me for the last ten years. She is one of those master gardeners. The master gardener program is typically offered through universities in the United States and Canada and provides intensive horticultural training to individuals.
In turn, they volunteer as master gardeners in their communities giving lectures, creating gardens, conducting research, and teaching others how to care for the land.
Each year as we visit a handful of master gardens I am enthralled by how these men and women are able to see the potential in a plot of land. Some of the gardens are somewhat formal, but as often as not the master gardeners nurture and encourage the natural landscapes of their personal patch of land. They are mindful stewards of their land.
I was thinking of this upcoming gardening tour the other day when I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read “In case of the rapture, this car will be empty.”
The implication is that the occupants of this car will be among the first to enter heaven — in fact that they can hardly wait for it to happen. I confess that when I see one of these bumper stickers I wonder what the driver thinks about the land. Does stewardship of the land matter to him or her? Or is the land a throw away because one day they’ll “be in heaven” and it won’t matter what condition the land is left in?
Too often, we Christians are so consumed with trying to get to heaven that we forget that each Sunday we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” God placed us here in his creation, and told us to work it and take care of it, to tend it. We have been given a task, a focus, a direction — participating in God’s creation.
Christ teaches us that we are to pray actively for the coming of God’s Kingdom here on earth and to actively participate in the work of the Kingdom right here, right now. Theologian Eugene Peterson notes that we are not outsiders to this earth where we have been placed. In fact, nineteen times in the opening chapters of Genesis the Hebrew writer uses terms that associate humans with that substance out of which we are formed — earth.
Peterson then reminds us that the fact is that we can do God’s work only in God’s place. “The Lord planted a garden in Eden … and there God put the man (and woman) whom he had formed…”
Tending the garden has taken on a new sense of urgency for me as I read about the roll back of clean air and clean water regulations.
You don’t have to believe in climate change to believe that we have a moral imperative to care for the land, to follow the ways of The Master Gardener.
The Rev. Camille Josey is the pastor at Silver Creek Presbyterian Church.