My Grandfather Geddie, a lay minister for the Methodist church, traveled to rural areas near my childhood home in Arkansas some weekends and gave the sermon. A six foot twoish man, Grandfather Geddie experienced his life, and not from a silver spoon. He lost his father early on, took on a man’s work by age twelve and his formal education ended that year. He was one of the most educated men I have ever met though. He rose from carrying crossties for the railroad on his back, to grading the timbers to later becoming an area head for Gross & Janes, a large timber provider and loan provider to timber mills. In his seventies he was able to purchase acreage and cattle as he had long desired to do. He built a home near the new land and started a twenty year adventure of being the rancher. His example in life teaches me each time I open his journal of sermons, his books, or read the notes in the margins of books given to me as a child. He had a desire to work daily on his land, Chaffee Creek, and he did the physical labor himself along with the hired men. As a child we thought fence post digging was his passion. Ever a scholar, I learned so much, and am still learning by his example and his presence in my life.
Modern Sermons by World Scholars, a 1909 collection of ten volumes, fascinates me as much as a fifty year old as it did when I saw Grandfather read it as he prepared his lessons. Difficult to read, for its language is common yet formal and the concepts simply deep. I am reminded this morning that the common life is what made Christ extraordinary. You see, it’s a distancing thing to ponder a Christ who came as man and yet is supernaturally God…but think about the disciples, the common men, fishermen, tax collectors, physicians. They walked every day life issues with Christ. Provision. The hardship of their own lives, the brutality of living in a career of tax collecting in Roman times, where homes were burned, crops ruined, backs beaten as part of the daily grind, the impossibility of medical intervention for blind men…yet this man, this Jesus, put mud on them and they were healed.
I walk our small garden outside in the mornings. I am most decidedly NOT a green thumb, in fact more an instrument of destruction for unsuspecting seeds and plants. Yet, we are watching a garden unfold in our yard. We planted later than we should have, we don’t know what we’re doing but each morning we delight in seeing the newness of growth bursting through the soil. Common, daily occurrences that remind me of the extraordinary gifts of the Father. Whether it’s the wonder of a hummingbird rising from the branches of our pear tree or the apples themselves hanging from a tree I didn’t even know was an apple tree when we bought the place, I am surrounded each day by the miracles of a Creator.
This morning’s sermon reading encouraged the reader to consider the types of worship that churches often encourage: adoration and the willingness to surrender that which does not bring us closer to God’s peace, shared corporate worship, teaching and learning together, and the fourth, the time set aside to actively do the work of the body of Christ in the community and world. The sermon urged us to consider focusing on a common faith, not religion exalted into some sort of precepts or hierarchy of showmanship, but a daily dealing with our choices, our attitudes, and our actions through a focus of love.
Love enough to experience focus on a common life of care of oneself so that one can care for others. A common life of learning to use one’s gifts, so that our work may not be toil but an ever deepening experience of daily enjoyment of our talents. A common life of expectancy, that we can count on God to be present daily in our lives, and in our time of need, but more than the rescue relationship; a loving presence, a Holy presence in our lives in relationship with us in our daily walks.
I see this late erupted seed that I planted seasons late, yet still hoped that the seed would burst through the soil this season… I suspect the expectancy I have had each day hoping my little seeds would come forth from their confinements is the very joy that the Father has when I break through each of the shells of hardness I finally lay down that keeps me from being who He created me to be.
Common, daily life. Miracles abound… this garden we’ve planted has changed my eyes, and my heart…for the daily time within its rows…is changing me. A time away from life’s busy-ness, from the noise and interruptions of the day…to a place where I see the Creator’s hand…in every scene before me.
I think I understand more of why Grandfather Geddie liked to build fences by hand on his farm well into his eighties… common tasks, done in an extraordinary setting…reminds me of the ever-present power and presence of God when I seek Him.
“I went to the garden to pray…” the old song rings in my heart this morning, I see in my minds eyes the elder men’s choir of 5 to 7 men standing together in the church of my childhood…and I hear the word in my mind and realize indeed these last few weeks, this time to pray in the garden, is such a holy experience. The weeds I have not simply been the errant plants in our rows I’ve pulled, but a reminder to pull the roots of life activities that no longer serve my life nor the lives of my family.
Funny thing about that…as the bitter roots and weeds are removed…the garden is flourishing…and my life too has become a more wonderful experience as we focused more on the common things in daily living. Love, peace, forgiveness, good stewardship, steadfastness…
It’s an old story.