It’s pretty cool right now to preach and teach about the environment – generally as it relates to being God’s creation, how we are responsible for it and so on. It’s a good teaching. Churches are encouraging beauty and recycling and planting community gardens. It’s good.
There’s a church in my neighborhood that’s been here for decades. Everyone knows where they are.Â The other day I noticed that they planted new flowers.
It looks like they tried to make it pretty.
It’s plastic. It’s pretend pretty.
It’s not only because of beauty or creation-care that we should plant gardens. Jeremiah 29:5 tells us to build houses and live in them and plant gardens and eat their produce. Â I don’t think this is entirely about having food. The exiles were ready to leave, and God wasn’t ready for that yet. He’s telling them to build houses to live in – not a slow process. He’s telling them to plant gardens that will yield produce – not a slow process. He even goes on to tell them to build families and seek the welfare of the city… the welfare of the very city where they do not belong – the city that is their punishment.Â This was about them being part of the neighborhood.
One of the ways I connect with my neighbors most is by being out in my garden. People walking by usually at least say hi. Neighbors who we know well come over and chat. I would say that the two things that have built relationships in our neighborhood the most significantly for us are (1) choosing to move in and (2) us planting visible gardens. These two things have nothing to do with evangelism, service or social justice. It’s about relationships and commitment to the long haul.
A homeless man we know told us that the church there is fake, that -in his opinion- they pretend to reach out, but that he would never be welcome. But this isn’t about that church. It is about what their garden represents. It’s about connections and commitment.
Building the houses, planting the gardens, celebrating families – these are all signs that the Jews in exile were part of the neighborhood. In it for the long haul. Churches, like believers, should also be in their communities for the long haul.Â Laying down figurative and literal roots.
What we need is deep roots. Deep roots get you through the drought. Depth connects us to others. What I know for sure is that you can’t be plastic and grow roots. So pick one. Will you be plastic or will you be planted?