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June 2020

From Revd Victoria Chester

As a confirmed armchair gardener I have two favourite kinds of garden. Those such as lovely National Trust gardens, where someone else does the hard work and I can enjoy the results. And second, those shown on ‘Gardener’s World ‘ on TV with the wonderful passion of the presenters for the plants in their care.

What I also love though, in any garden, is the way that plants have of scuppering our best laid plans.  Despite the very best our garden centres can offer there are still weeds that seem to survive relentlessly. Which of us hasn’t marvelled at the state of our hedges and borders, when everything else struggles for survival, but the brambles and nettles still grow at a rate of knots?  Even amongst carefully tended house plants, shoots of quite different stalks and leaves can appear seemingly from nowhere overnight.

But the bramble doesn’t realise that it’s a weed nor does the daisy in the middle of the lawn. There is something quite wonderful about their pride in blazing into flower in the most inappropriate place, gloriously unaware that they don’t fit into our plans.  No matter how good a gardener we are, weeds, soil and the weather all  help remind us we are not entirely in control. We can fertilise our soil, but if it is acid, it is unlikely to become alkali – and the plants that thrive will reflect that. Some years we think we have done all the right things, but still there are plants that don’t flourish as we might hope and ‘weeds’ that flourish all too well. But after all, it’s been said that “a weed is just a plant in the wrong place”.

I sometimes wonder whether our gardens can offer us some important lessons, particularly in these strange times when not being in control of what we otherwise take for granted has been a big feature of life for so many of us.  For Jesus, it was the wild flowers and weeds of the field that had so much to teach us.  In his parable of the mustard seed the wild black mustard plant was the perfect example of the potential and blessings of the kingdom of God that come when we let something grow as our Creator intended it.  What for the farmers of his time was a pernicious weed, was for Jesus a vital source of shade from the burning sun and shelter for birds and animals alike.

For those of us blessed with gardens, allotments or houseplants over the last few months they have been oases of calm, refreshment, colour and activity.  But perhaps there is a bigger message growing there for us too; that our Creator delights equally in all that he has made, in each lily of the field, in each mustard seed, and in each one of us.  His love encompasses the weeds as well as the flowers wherever they grow, planned or unplanned, because they are all signs of life, growth and the hope of his kingdom.  In the words of one of our best loved hymns:

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.

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