Beautiful cucumbers!



Those of you who have read my columns from time to time have come to know that I enjoy gardening. It has been time spent in the garden that has often revealed some of God’s greatest lessons, provided insights and often been an impetus that leads to greater reflection. In recent weeks, this has been the case once again.

At this time of year, I am gathering the last vegetables from the spring planting and putting the remnants of the vines on the compost pile. In an effort to get the greatest yield from my plants, I leave the vines still producing fruit and cut away others so all the nutrients can be directed to those remaining. After doing this, I return in about a week to see if those vegetables are ripe for the picking. To my delight, most have grown substantially and are ready to make their way to the dinner table. But to my dismay this season, I noticed that I had inadvertently cut a vine to my cucumber plant that had held the beginnings of several beautiful cucumbers. Since being severed from their source, growth was inhibited and they withered on the vine.

Ordinarily, I don’t think I would have paid much attention to this occurrence except to feel a sense of disappointment at my mistake. However, this was not the case. Instead, this experience quickly brought me to the stark reality of what it actually looks like when a living thing is cut off from its roots. What our lives look like when we cut ourselves off from our sacred source. This imagery from John’s Gospel of the vine and the branches was made very real: “No more than a branch can bear fruit apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me. He who lives in me and I in Him will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Recently, I was introduced to similar imagery when reading Will Herberg’s “Cut flower Culture.” Herberg, a Jewish theologian, reminds us how beautiful and fragrant cut flowers are at the outset; but they eventually wither and die because they have been removed from their source of life. He likens this to what he was beginning to observe in the culture of the 1950s. He warned that, if this turning away from faith in God and rejection of living a life that was reflective of this faith, our society would become a very different place.

Both of these images speak to us as individuals and as a culture. I am sure that we all can relate to how we witness these realities on a personal level and within our communities.

Throughout Salvation history, stories are told of our ancestors and how, in spite of personal struggles and sometimes failings, they maintain their relationship with God and how it led them to life and abundant living. Even the chosen ones fall into a pattern where they accept the covenant; reject the covenant (cut themselves off from God) and experience the consequence of the severed relationship; then repent and return to the relationship.

I believe the imagery found in the Gospel of John, Herberg’s “Cut Flower Culture” and the pattern of the chosen people serve as poignant reminders that, in striving to live our lives connected to our source of life, we do experience the abundance of life and all that naturally flows from this. May we always remember the promise that “he who lives in me and I in him, will produce abundantly” (John 15:4).