We all matter
We all matter. Each one of us. God cares about the welfare of every individual one of us. Not only our ‘spiritual condition’, our ‘faith life’, or our ‘metaphysical nature’ — but our actual here and now welfare too.
The creator of all-that-there-is wants you to have shelter, and belonging and enough to eat and drink and clean fresh air to breathe. The radical nature of Christianity is that we claim that The Lord Almighty of Heaven and Earth — the biggest of big ideas, the deepest of deep thoughts, the oldest of old things —- wants you to flourish, to not only live but to live life abundantly. You as an individual matter. We as a community matter. We’re all part of the plan.
This Lent as we journey towards Easter we are going to explore the sensitivity, tenderness and care of our God who Jesus once described as a gardener (see John 15:1). Just as a gardener cares and cultivates so does God. Just as a gardener waters and watches, plants and prunes so does God. Gardening is organic and seasonal. It takes skill, attention and patience. For plants to thrive they are given what they need to grow and the space to do it and then they are left to do so. A gardener doesn’t crack open the seed, pull a stem out of the ground and prise apart the petals.
Our lives are also more organic and seasonal than we often realise. Each life is unique but it is also part of a wider environment of patterns. Trees and flowers can’t grow in isolation and neither can we. Our lives feature times of growth and then times of pruning back. We might flourish for a time before finding ourselves back to first principles for a season. There are times of bearing fruit and times of lying fallow. Sometimes our arms sag with the effort of carrying good things and sometimes they are bare and outstretched, unable to stop the harrowing wind. But through it all our Father the Gardener never abandons us, caring despite everything. Helping us to survive, to thrive, to flourish — even encouraging us to become apprentice gardeners ourselves.
This Lent and Easter we are going to be exploring a two part theme sequence ‘Beginning to Flourish’. Part one in March is ‘What We Really Need’ and part two in April is ‘My Father, The Gardener’. Over these two months we will journey with God and one another exploring how the Ultimate Gardener finds us where we are —whatever soil we’re in — and nourishes us tenderly.
From the blunt shoots that grow in and amongst the rubble and hard ground of desperate need to the copious fruit of the groaning branches of the overspilling vineyard, our God nurtures us.
This year we will be once again offering a series of Lent Disciplines offering a simple thing you can do every day each week to help weave our reflections into everyday life. These Disciplines are inspired by our rich Christian heritage and offer straightforward ways of settling the heart, stilling the mind, and focusing our thoughts. They invite you to to do one thing every day for a week, the idea being that the repetition allows you to build on the experience, noticing new things each day. If you forget or miss a day, don’t worry, you can just start again on the next day. Just as a gardener patiently experiments, trying new things and making small adjustments — we as apprentice gardeners can do the same as disciples trying new ways of praying, of caring, of serving one another.
The Lent Disciplines for each week will be posted as part of our regular Daily Worship resource. Lent is an important time in the church calendar to slow down and make time to focus our minds on God, open to new understandings and insights. Our hope is that by reflecting on what we really need we can get to know our Father, the Gardener, ever better, ever more.