April 2016 – Clean-up and Planting

Spring, by tradition, is a time for Spring cleaning and Spring planting. It’s been a bit challenging trying to visualize working in the garden this week, what with fresh snow on the ground for three days in a row. So I’ve been thinking more about Spring cleaning – though I know from experience I’ll probably barely begin to do all the clean up work that should be done.

Our household does fine with all the routine cleaning. It’s getting rid of things we don’t actually need that’s problematic. I spent four days cleaning my office a little over a year ago. It’s due again, big time. We still have many boxes in storage containing a mix of practical and at least occasionally in-use items alongside stuff we may not even remember we have. Friends, family, and neighbors report similar stories. And in our churches, I notice, we have quite a few items from the past-the meaning and/or importance of which we’re no longer quite sure of.

The current issue of Christian Century magazine has a cover story titled The Joy of De-Cluttering, that plays off the themes of the best-selling book The Life-Saving Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The rule of thumb in the book is summarized as ‘If it brings joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, let it go.’ Which, as the article notes, sounds great, and may actually be an excellent rule.  Though it’s obviously at least a bit too sweeping – does anyone really feel joy at the sight of a fire extinguisher or smoke alarm? Yet we know we need them, joy-enhancing or not. (Perhaps we should feel joy – if only we knew?)

But isn’t the real problem with ‘keep it only if it brings joy’ – that this ‘simple rule’ doesn’t actually make deciding what to do with stuff much simpler?

Does the sweater I haven’t worn for two years still bring joy? Do all the  books on all my shelves bring joy? (Certainly some do; certainly not all. I find it relatively easy to give away books to someone I know will read them. I like to donate to our Thrift Shop, and I don’t mind giving books unlikely to sell to the Swap Shop. But I still dislike the thought of books I’ve owned ending up in a landfill… if nobody buys them or brings them home…)

I struggle often to discern the difference between genuine joy and emotions that masquerade as joy. And the real work of cleaning turns out to be a spiritual practice of letting go. So – I will make at least a few trips to the Thrift Shop and the Swap Shop… And before I know where the time has gone… It will be time for planting.

Some of you are already there. This year our family has a garden plot at the Valley Farms Community Garden on County Road. We’ve just received an email notice of where our spot is and explaining community garden rules – and mentioning that the first gardener actually seen out planting this Spring has been our Bourne UMC parishioner, Mike Eden – who got his first peas, carrots and other hardy early crops planted in March. No wonder his garden plot is popularly known as (what else?) – The Garden of Eden.

As my thoughts turn now towards the garden, I’m reminded – cleaning, gardening, and every task we undertake will be a spiritual exercise, when done with awareness, in conversation with God.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), whose book Revelations of Divine Love is one of the all-time spiritual classics, was assuredly speaking both literally and metaphorically when she wrote, “Be a gardener: Dig a ditch. Toil and sweat. And turn the earth upside down. And seek the deepness. And water plants in time. Continue this labor. And make sweet floods to run, and noble and abundant fruits to spring. Take this food and drink, and carry it to God as your true worship.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Galatians (5:22) tells us. Seeds of the Spirit are sown in all our worship, all our prayer time, all our life of service to God, neighbors, family and community in all the wider parish that is God’s world. Though harvest may still seem far off in these chilly days of early Spring, the harvest of the Spirit will surely come in its season… as we persist in God’s grace…

The grace and peace of our risen Lord be with you in this season of resurrection,

Pastor Tim