A while back someone asked to see my garden. Actually, what they said was, ‘Bill, what did you plant this year?’” I took them out back to see my garden and when we got there, I answered a slightly different question. I showed them what I hoped to harvest. I showed them the blueberry bushes that are now in full production – producing about a quart a day -- but I planted those bushes 18 years ago. I pointed to the rhubarb that I planted years ago and needs harvesting, I pointed to the tomatoes – they’ll be ready to harvest soon, the Chinese eggplant, green peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers.
Paul says, “God is not mocked. What you harvest from your garden is directly related to what you sow – and it is not related just to what you plant this year. It is related to all the habits you have formed around planting. I till up the soil the first week of May. I buy certain plants from certain stores – my favorite store in the whole world is the Apple Store in Squirrel Hill, but I don’t buy my seeds for my garden there. I figured out a while back that Apple computers are too difficult to grow. I love going to the movies, but I have never come back with popcorn from a show and planted it.
Funny thing. When it comes to life, we often expect what we harvest will be different from what we plant. We often go to the wrong store for seeds to make changes in our lives. I recently went to see the movie “Rocket Man,” which tells the story of Elton John. From an early age he was an extremely gifted musician – the man was practically born with a piano. And as a youth, he wanted nothing more than to harvest the fruit of his creativity. But he found himself planting drugs and alcohol into his body, instead of the healthy habits that would lead to a long and successful life. He went to the addiction store instead of the spiritual-creativity store. Fortunately, about 20 years ago, John Elton checked himself into a rehab center and got with a program to overcome his addictions. Rehab is kind of like getting a John Deer tractor and plowing under everything. Raking the field of your life and starting over, with an empty slate, and this time planting the right things.
God is not mocked. We often think in our relationships that we can hold on to petty resentments, that we can nurture mistrust and self-centeredness in our lives and end up in a fruitful, loving, relationship with our spouse or our family members. What you plant is what you sow. If you think you can have a good relationship with someone else and not take the time to really learn how to listen to them, and to see things from their point of view; you are mistaken. That is like taking home popcorn from the movies and believing you can harvest the perfect marriage, the perfect relationship with you boss at work or the people you live with.
Let’s go a step deeper. What we really want to harvest is a spiritual relationship with God. What you really want are the fruits of the Spirit. You want to grow over your life a spiritual relationship with God that allows you to be both creative and compassionate. I want to be clear this morning about what I want to harvest from a life-long relationship with God. Let me take you out into my spiritual garden. You ask me, “What are you planting?” and I respond by showing you what I expect to harvest.
Two things creativity and compassion. By creativity, I mean the ability to be what I was born to be. Some of you know that I enjoy photography and creative writing – these are desires that God has wired into me that I seek continually to nurture and bring to harvest. I mentioned Elton John. Harvesting that creative talent that he is now sharing with the world required him nurturing a fruitful business relationship with Bernie Taupin (You’ve never heard of Bernie?) He’s the guy that writes all of Elton John’s lyrics. Drugs and Alcohol broke these two up. We would not have the last 20years of their music if Elton John hadn’t gone into rehab.
I also want to define for you compassion – literally it means to feel along with another person – to fully understand and care for someone else. For us, as Christians, it is the spiritual life we see in Jesus. That is the new life we hope to harvest. A life where we really love others the way Jesus loves us.