Gardening

It was many months ago now that myself and a good friend (the similarly named Rich Pitt) promised, as part of the UBCU fund-raising Promise Auction, to complete some gardening for the highest bidder, and last week, the time came to cash in that promise to our wonderful friend Kristi. Quite a few hours of work later, and with some extra help, the garden was successfully transformed; not quite to a masterpiece but definitely to a the level of a collage I’d be happy to stick on my fridge.Garden

It’s probably the first bit of gardening I’ve done in a while (certainly, my garden here at Uni is testament to that!), and it got me thinking. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in hn 15 lately, from going through John in my quiet time to our Oasis series “Fruit that lasts” looking at the fruits of the Spirit and to our CU’s vision for the year ahead of being totally and utterly Rooted in Christ as the basis and foundation of our shared mission on campus. I feel I know it quite well. However, there is something about having spent a few hours cutting, mowing, strimming and bagging 23 bags worth of garden waste that really shifts “knowing” a passage from head knowledge to heart knowledge. Looking closely at the word of God is wonderful, but there is something about experiencing what it talks about physically which truly hits home, particularly when it is using metaphors and imagery. Some things I’ve learnt from that afternoon:

–          Gardening is hard work. It’s tiring, fiddly and frustrating at times; and that was only for one afternoon. To see truly great results would require you to go back, day after day, month after month, working hard, constantly striving to care for something so fragile, and yet so beautiful. John 15:1-2 talks about the Father as our gardener, shaping and moulding us more into the likeness of Jesus if we allow Him. This too though, is hard work! It takes time, day after day, month after month, and more often than not, we’ll probably fight Him all the way, but you know what? He thinks you’re worth it!

–          Plants are strong. Even the ones which don’t look like anything special can hide roots which go way down, and once bedded in, boy are they tough to get out. Plants bed themselves in deeply, roots to stem, stem to branch, and even with the right tools it can be a challenge to break through. Jesus talks in John 15:4-7 about us “remaining in Him” as branches remain in a vine. What a challenge! Are we so deeply stuck into Him that no supernatural secateurs of the enemy can cut us away? Jesus is strong enough to repel them, if only we remain in Him.

–          As Christians, we have to meet people where they are at. A slightly different reflection this one, but it’s so important to remember that as we present the gospel to those around us in our daily lives, we need to love people well enough that we care about how we present them with this treasure that we have. Jesus was the master at this (as with pretty much everything else), and His stories, His parables and His use of imagery connected with the people of His day because they took everyday situations, scenarios and examples and demonstrated how they reflected and pointed to the One who made them all. If I had realised what now seems quite obvious, that actually doing some gardening would have helped my understanding of John 15, I would have done it much sooner! As followers of Jesus, we have a commission to share His good news with those around us, but that does not mean that we need present it as dull, boring or irrelevant. After all, the gospel is none of those things! It’s life! Neither are we alone; God sends the Holy Spirit to live within us, helping, teaching, guiding and prompting us in His mission, if we let Him. If we love God and love those around us with everything we have, if we let Him speak through us to reach people where they are at, you can be sure that God will be using us to fulfil that mission of letting the whole world know the good news of Jesus Christ.

I heard it said once that you’re never closer to God than when you’re in a garden. Whilst I’m not sure that’s entirely true, what I have found is a little gardening goes a long way, both on the outside, and on the inside.

Regards,

Richard

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Reflections on Catalyst

Good evening!

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I was fortunate enough to attend the Catalyst festival at Stoneleigh, with my church, Oasis Church Birmingham. Now, a couple of weeks on, it’s had a little time to sink in and I can really take a step back and reflect on what was a wonderful few days.

I can think back to meeting so many new people for the first time, and properly getting to know some I’ve only met in passing at Church. It’s easy to find yourself in a student bubble sometimes, particularly at University and even at Church, and it’s easy to simply hang out with the same people and never branch out. But that’s not what we were designed for! When Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12 about being part of a body of Christians, he makes it clear that in that body is a huge amount of diversity – differences as stark as a foot is different from an eye! Something that really struck me over the few days away is that the body of Christ really is beautiful because of its diversity, and not simply in spite of it. We are all part of a bigger whole, bigger than the student bubble at Oasis, bigger than Birmingham, bigger even than the newfrontiers family of Churches, a wonderfully varied assortment of unspectacular people running after a spectacular God.

I can think back to the thrill of worship with thousands of others lifting their voices to God; that same sense of being part of something bigger condensed into one moment as voices rise, singing new songs, old songs, non-songs and praises of all kinds. I never feel closer to heaven than when I look around at people as far as I can see lifting their hearts and eyes to Him and pouring out love. The realisation too, that the God who is so present in the room of 4000 is just as present in your prayer meeting of ten the week after, and hears every silent prayer spoken alone in your room at home. How astonishing it is that He would be interested in us!

I can think back to challenging talks and seminars, spending time considering bodily resurrection and predestination and ‘big theological stuff’ and also mulling over devastatingly simple, core-gospel talks which force you to re-evaluate what you are putting at the centre of your life. If it’s not Jesus, it’s not worth it! Reflecting back, it is much easier to see the lessons learned, to see a great time for stretching and building my faith.

I am looking forward to next year already, but also to building on what has begun at Catalyst, deeper friendships with those at Church, my brothers and sisters, a faith challenged and grown, and a renewed joy in the beauty of a broken people rescued by Grace and seen fit by the King of Kings to be welcomed into His courts, now and forever.

Regards,

Richard