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Our Senses, Redeemed

On one of my many commutes this week, I caught just a snippet of an interesting interview on Being with Krista Tippett on NPR.

The interview was with Vigen Guroian, who writes on the connection between gardening and the Christian faith (specifically, the Eastern Orthodox tradition). In the part of the interview that I heard, he suggested that the events of Easter redeem our senses.

I’ve been dodging rain for two weeks, trying to plant blueberry bushes and apple trees and roses and holly and tomatoes and corn and carrots. And in the last few days, while digging and mowing and pruning, I’ve been wondering how Easter redeems my senses.

I wonder about those disciples who went to the tomb, who saw messengers whose clothes and faces shone like the sun. After seeing such a light, were they somewhat blinded to the rest of the world for a time?

After a camera flash, I see spots. When suddenly turning on a light after I’ve been in the dark (or asleep) I am temporarily unable to see.

So, in the light of the news of resurrection, did they leave the tomb with one hand out in front of them, so that they didn’t run into trees and bushes that they couldn’t see?

Or, (unlike camera flashes) does the light of resurrection give such light as to improve our vision rather than diminish it? Am I better able to see the seeds, smell the grass and experience the texture of the petals because of the Good News of Easter?

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, icons are an integral part of the worship experience. These icons are extraordinarily beautiful images of the foremothers and forefathers of the faith, Biblical scenes, or representations of the saints.

The word icon means window. In the Orthodox tradition, it is believed that these visual representations open a window into a deeper understanding of the faith.

Perhaps that is the way in which I experience my senses to be redeemed. Instead of seeing my garden better, I am able to see my garden as an icon, a window: a window through which I am more able to see the fingerprints of God.

Thriving like blueberries

Between several thunderstorms and a significant amount of work on this week’s three worship services (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday), I managed to get one of my blueberry bushes planted today.

I was kneeling over a large hole in the ground (sporting my garden chic overalls) and mixing peat moss and amendments in with the topsoil, when it occurred to me: blueberry bushes have something to teach me about being a pastor.

But first, we need to understand the blueberry bush.

A blueberry bush prefers an acidic soil with good drainage, a lot of sun and at least six weeks of near-freezing temperatures in the off-season.

Can a blueberry bush live without these things? Sure. But a blueberry bush won’t thrive without them. And when I say “won’t thrive,” I mean that the bush won’t produce fruit.

Every time I preach on John 15 (the vine and branches passage where Jesus challenges us to bear fruit), I remind those who are listening that bearing fruit isn’t something the plant decides to do (or not do). And an apple tree doesn’t sit around discerning whether to produce plums or pears.

Bearing fruit – as illustrated by the blueberry bush – is the natural result of a thriving plant. (As well as some very helpful bees.)

I know what it takes to create the conditions for my blueberry bush to thrive: some organic additives that increase the acidity of the soil, some peat moss, and some mulch.

As a pastor, there are also things I can do to create conditions that will encourage the parishioners I serve to thrive.

I am neither naïve enough nor prideful enough to suggest that I have control over another person’s ability to thrive … but I also do not underestimate the pastor’s (or teacher’s or parent’s or sibling’s or spouse’s) role in nurturing and encouraging such flourishing.

We each have the ability to help create conditions (in whatever setting in which we find ourselves) that will help others – and ourselves – thrive. I suspect we don’t often recognize our own ability to do so.

Are you thriving? Are you encouraging others to flourish and bear fruit?

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