“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God,’ (Luke 8:11)

We encourage you to download, gather with a group of friends, and experience our newly released Bible Study on the Story of Jesus. It would be a great Lenten resource and discipline.

We have 3 objectives in mind for 2023 the Year of Story:

  • To help you experience the connection between God’s story and your story.
  • To help you learn and share the Jesus story.
  • To help you become aware of the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

In the reflection entitled, The Seed Is the Word of God, Calla Gilson shares about the gift of Community Gardening, followed by the Jesus story: the Parable of the Sower.

In 2021, the dedicated folks who faithfully tended the local Community Garden, planted way too many tomatoes. I didn’t ever think there was such a thing, but a bountiful harvest from too many tomato plants creates a mushy, sticky, smelly situation.

It was our first-year gardening together as a community, and enthusiasm was high. In addition to the organic heirloom varieties kindly donated by a local couple who grow seedlings to give away plants to fight food insecurity, we accepted several more plants. Local families and church members were committed to gardening together and found a place for each seedling in the rich soil. Hands, young and old, experienced and not worked side-by-side in the garden. Together we watered, watched, and waited with wonder as each plant slowly grew leaves, then tiny yellow flowers, then tender buds that swelled into juicy tomatoes!

In seemingly no time, we had green, orange, yellow, russet, purple and even striped tomatoes! We had softball-sized heirlooms, delicious plum and Roma tomatoes, gobs and gobs of gob-stopper-sized cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and even miniature versions of tomato plants whose entire stem and leaf and fruit together never grew larger than a soccer ball! We had so many tomatoes. The forest of tomatoes in each box grew so dense that it became impossible to see and retrieve tomatoes when they were ripe. The plants escaped their cages and ran wildly away from their tall stakes! Instead of bushels of gorgeous, shiny tomatoes making it out to the community produce stand for all to enjoy, the tomato plants became so encumbered by the sheer volume of the fruit they produced, that they bent over and snapped under the weight of the bounty. Tomatoes began to rot on the vine. This sticky situation had an undeniable smell– tomatoes that had fallen off were decomposing and the tomatoes that replaced them were being feasted upon by insects!

In 2022, recalling the “tomato-pocalypse” of the year before, we only planted 8 tomato plants. Spaced the ideal distance apart and secured to sturdy stakes within tomato cages where they could grow upwards toward the sun, the 8 tomato plants were happy as could be. Remembering the volume of tomatoes produced the year before, we planned a Salsa Celebration to be hosted at the peak of tomato season. The whole community was invited to come and make their own salsa from the onions, peppers, and yes–tomatoes grown in the community garden. But 8 tomato plants produce significantly less tomatoes than 35+ tomato plants. I panicked that we wouldn’t have enough. So, we asked the folks of the church to bring along any tomatoes they might have to share from their own gardens, to contribute to the Salsa Celebration.

If I had to write a parable, it’d probably start something like “The Kingdom of God is like asking the good folks of Fulton County to share tomatoes with their neighbors in September”. In other words, the Kingdom of God is full of abundant generosity. Not only did we have way more than “enough” tomatoes to make salsa, we surpassed our wildest imagination! With bushels after bushels of tomatoes, and poblano, Cubano, habanero, jalapeno peppers, onions, and more, flooding the church kitchen, there was plenty of salsa to be made. From the generosity of many, we found ourselves once again with so many tomatoes. Those who came to the Salsa Celebration worked together to make 77 pounds of delicious salsa. Folks from Wauseon and Swanton who had come to know each other through community gardening prepped ingredients while laughing and learning more about each other’s gardens. As in the garden where we spend more time practicing loving our neighbor than we do tending to seed, so too in the kitchen did we learn and laugh as much as make salsa. Somehow, there was enough for everyone to take home a few pounds of salsa, and still provide plenty to the staff and families of the church daycare, to hungry folks enjoying community meals in Toledo and beyond. At the end of the day, there were still so many tomatoes left over and we were able to share those with many more hungry people too. And that was good news.

Calla concludes her Community Garden story with a summary and some relevant questions, Jesus talks about the seeds falling on good soil being people who hold fast to the word. What seasons in your life might your ability to hold on to the good news have served you well? Were there times when the opposite was true, and you found it difficult to hold onto the promises of God’s goodness? Calla then goes onto to draw us deeper into the Story of Jesus, the Story of the Sower, and eventually our own sacred stories.

Please click here to access 2023 the Year of Story Bible Study