Adventures with God:
Everyday Practices for Radical Gardening
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost • July 21, 2019
Scripture Lessons: Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV) &
Psalm 1:1-3 (NRSV)
Angela Morris, guest preacher
Rooted and grounded in Love. Like a tree planted by streams of water.
How many well-hydrated trees do we have in the room today? It’s hot. Thanks for being here.
When Jorge Lockward, your minister of worship arts, asked me to sub for him today, I thought I was agreeing to lead music. But it later became clear that I had agreed to preach! Or in this case, share practices that lead me to encounter God. So this is a nice surprise.
The first practices that came to mind are things I do that I feel I can control – in the morning, lighting a candle. Reading that beautiful Padraig O Tuama poem. Meditating, reading scripture, and singing psalms.
I tried to share a bit of that with you in the way we entered the service today. And I think it’s important to have a practice like that, to root and ground myself. But most of my life is not like that, and I don’t do that everyday. And honestly, if I get to call the shots I’m probably not greeting the God who is more God than the God I greet.
Just for the record, I think we are encountering God all the time. Our roots are always drawing up love that surpasses understanding. The practices we’re going to do are really for noticing and remembering that. Even in uncontrollable moments, or regular garden-variety moments.
Before we start, here’s a story:
I have a roommate who is black. But I’m not telling you this to be like “well I have friends who are black.” It’s way worse than that.
One afternoon I was walking down the block towards my apartment, which has a private door from the street. I looked up and saw a dark, black man, alone, entering my home.
My heart skipped a beat. Like: Danger. Intruder. He doesn’t. belong. here.
Then my mind caught up and I smiled and called “Hey, hold the door!”
But that smile was my not my first instinct. There’s a lot of information in my first instinct about what sources my roots are drawing from. And the truth is some of my roots are drawing from the poison of white supremacy. Church, I confess that my first instinct can be racist.
God has planted me in Love and my roots are still busy with all kinds of other stuff. And we know what’s at stake. This is not just about the health and prosperity of my own tree. In that split second before I recognized my roommate as a person rather than a threat, I shot Amadou Diallo. I shot Trayvon Martin.
When we look at our country and the world, it’s not a few bad apples and it’s not even a few bad apples spoil the bunch. As Rev. Lenny Duncan of Jehu’s Table here in Brooklyn says: the roots are rotten. And the three is a lynching tree. Just ask Jesus.
So the question is, how to nourish the healthy roots? How to grow new first instincts, or, at least, faster second instincts?
Here’s a practice you can do anywhere in the city, I like to do it on the train. I slowly gaze at each person – in a non-creepy way, I hope – each person, one by one, and in my head I say “Child of God.”
Baby sleeping in stroller. (that’s a freebie)
Woman in business casual
Man with a cane and a Blue Lives Matter t-shirt.
Myself in the reflection.
And here’s a song for it:
Christ Is Our Mirror
Christ is our mirror
Open your eyes and gaze
See your face in Christ
We’re going to add to that in a moment. But I want to tell you another story. This is really what made go deep with the gardening analogies.
Leaves were dropping like wild from one of my houseplants. Turns out it was covered in bugs. So I sat down and wiped the bugs off each leaf. At first I was all motivated and energetic. Then I realized a plant has a lot of leaves.
So then I was kind of irritated, bored, all the while wiping away, eventually fell into a rhythm with it and got into this kind of slippery mind state. In that state, the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” came into my head. I realized the reality of this plant was changing overnight. When the sun set, its life was being sucked away by this legion of insects. When the sun rose, it would be free.
Every time we wake up – literally or metaphorically – we wake up to the reality that THE gardener has removed all the bugs and fungus and rotten roots from our lives. The power of every force, every habit, every story, that is keeping us from the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, is wiped away.
That is grace. We can’t earn it, we can’t deserve it, we can’t lose it, we can’t exhaust it. All we can do is praise God, thank Her, and keep growing the healthy roots that connect us to her. Which are the same roots that connect us to one another.
Ok sermon, over. The practice here is getting into the slippery mind state. You can do it washing dishes, waiting in line, whatever. But since we’re here together, we’re going to dance about it.
Copyright © 2019 by Angela Morris
All rights reserved.