April 28, 2018

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

April 28, 2018


Psalm 22:25-31
Amos 9:7-15
Mark 4:30-32

This weekend’s reading: Matthew 16:13-20


“Inch by inch, row by row; we’re gonna make this garden grow.”

We find agricultural metaphors, like the ones in our verses from Amos and Mark, throughout the Bible. Can increasingly urbanized Americans can still relate to these farming images? In the 1790s only 19 out of 20 Americans lived on farms; today 4 in 5 live in urban areas. But for most of us, even down-sizing baby boomers, homeowners in zero-lot developments, or those who like high-rise condominiums, we still have the urge to garden, if only in a window box. With just a few square feet of sunny soil, we want to plant tomatoes. It’s what old Southern ladies do, according to Ouiser in Steel Magnolias.
In Amos 9, God promises reconciliation, a time when Israel will repent and turn back to God. On that day things will be right again: a grower can plant vineyards and expect to taste the grapes; a farmer can plow a garden and be assured of enjoying the vegetables. It’s a powerful image. Of late we have news of countries at war whose farms are destroyed by bombs or retreating armies. We have seen careless use of land that pollutes the earth where it once was fertile. Drought, extreme floods, wildfires, contaminated seeds—the people plant but have no hope of eating their own produce.
Last Sunday was Earth Day, and we remember that God promises to save the earth as well as the people on it. Romans 8:19-25 speaks of creation groaning in pain, waiting to be redeemed from its bondage to decay, and like us, the earth lives in hope of obtaining “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” We start with faith that begins as small as a mustard seed and grows into the largest plant in the garden, providing food for us and shelter for the birds.
Now it is late April; the frosts are likely over for this year. It’s time to start our garden, however small. How else are we going to have homegrown tomatoes for that sandwich in July?


  • Name as many garden stories as you can think of in the Bible, starting with the garden of Eden; include Jesus’ parables and the gardens associated with Holy Week.
  • How can we relate issues of ecology to our Christian faith?


  • Encourage children—your own or those you mentor—to learn to garden and enjoy eating fresh vegetables. Help them get started in a planter, a small backyard garden, or a community garden. Talk about the importance of caring for the earth with them. Here is a song to sing while you garden.


God of all creation, we know you as a gardener, nurturing our growth as well as giving us the trees and plants for food, for breath, and for shelter. We give you grateful thanks for the beauty of the earth. Teach us to care for our home on earth and bless us with peace that we may enjoy the harvest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.