Mark G. Schroeder
I may be rushing the season for those of us who live in the northern part of the country, but April is the month I begin to think about planting my garden. Those thoughts are not always filled with eager anticipation, however.
I always start out with the best intentions. Last year was probably the best example of my lack of gardening expertise. Like most years, it started out well. I rototilled the soil zealously. I planned where the beans, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes would be planted. And on one of the first really warm days in May, I planted the seeds in straight rows and tidy mounds and carefully transplanted the pepper and tomato plants in just the right spots.
I decided that I wouldn’t really need a fence to keep the rabbits away that year. Bad decision. A few weeks later, after the beans had pushed their way out of the soil to a height of about three inches, the neighborhood rabbits noticed that there was no fence. They chewed the beans to the ground in one night.
As the weeks wore on, my garden was victimized again. My garden vigilance, so robust in May with faithful weeding and watering, gave way to distraction by the middle of June. The weeds invaded and took over. The unwatered ground, so nicely soft and tilled in May, soon turned concrete hard and cracked in the summer heat. Later, in spite of my neglect, some of the vegetables actually matured and began to ripen. But there were days when some remained unpicked, only to fall to the ground as a reminder of my own lack of attention.
Once again, my garden was a failure. And it was my own fault.
As I think of my garden, I’m reminded of how my lack of zeal and my tendency to become distracted isn’t limited to my gardening. It happens in my spiritual life too, and what’s at stake there is far more important than vegetables. I think I would be safe in saying the same is true of you.
Faith, planted in Baptism by the power of the gospel, springs up in our hearts. Nurtured by the Word of God, many times from infancy, it pushes up like a young plant from the dead and lifeless ground of our natural sinful hearts. Motivated by the love that God has shown us, we respond with joy and thanks and a desire to serve our Savior.
But how easy it is to neglect our faith. We let down the fences and fall prey to temptation. We become distracted by the weeds of worry and materialism, and we become attracted to the false promises we hear so often. We allow our hearts to become hardened to God’s call to daily repentance, and we all too easily let the sweet news of the gospel fall on deaf and unappreciative ears.
Thank God that we have a spiritual Gardener who does not neglect us and become distracted in his care for us. In spite of our failures and unfaithfulness, our gracious God continues to fence us in and protect us with the power of his Word and the certainty of his promises. He even seeks to remove the attractions that would choke our faith and keep us from serving him. He continues to nourish our faith with the rain of his gospel, reminding us of what his Son did for us.
I thankful he’s a better gardener than I am.
Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017
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