Neighbors frequently comment about how beautiful our front yard looks with all its greenery, flowering pots and window boxes. Those who come into our backyard ooh and aah over it. It encircles the back side of the house with bushes, trees and flowering plants. A small box garden is lush with herbs and tomatoes. The grass is green and thick, except in the dogs’ favorite spot. Dozens of birds fill the yard as they feed at the feeders and bathe and drink from the bird bath. We love it. But look a little closer.
A good deal of it adheres to my gardening philosophy: if it’s green and not prickly, it’s not a weed. There are exceptions to the rule, many of them, but all the exceptions are purely subjective according to the mood of the day. Volunteer seeding of flowers, known and unknown, come up each spring. Something very weedlike, but with beautiful purple blossoms, flourishes among the roses and plants with exotic names. The lawn is alive with yellow dandelions in early and late summer, grass that others treat with Roundup is abundant but not overwhelming. We do overseed and fertilize with fish meal twice a year. Our box garden is rich with herbs and tomatoes because I can’t seem to get anything else to grow. Wonderful things are sprouting up under the bird feeders and I’m waiting to find out what they are.
It seems to me that my garden is a great metaphor for the church, or at least what I think it should be like. Except for the purely subjective exceptions part. Clergy in our tradition have the canonical authority to exclude persons from Communion for just cause, but it is seldom used and for good reason. We are not competent judges when it comes to excommunication. However, I do make some changes that may speak to life in the congregation.
For instance, we recently removed an old locust tree before it became a hazard to us and our neighbors. Other trees were trimmed to get rid of dead limbs and strategically thinned to better withstand the winds around here. Now and then we replant things to put them in a place where they might flourish better. Things like that. Congregations sometimes need to do the same thing if they are to remain healthy.
A garden rich with the abundance of things that grow, some exotic, some common, some unknown, some planted where we intended, some growing where they want. The garden does need tending. It needs water, nourishment and trimming. But if they’re not prickly, they’re not weeds, or perhaps in the congregation one might say that if they are not toxic they are not weeds.