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Religious Gardening

September 10, 2011

…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah 2:4b

My stepdad thought I was joking when I told him where I was going this morning.  On the eve of 9/11?  Seriously?  No jokes.

Today I went to a Mosque to garden… and had a great time!  The funny thing is that I hate gardening.  I wish I had been able to stay longer.  Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, atheists?, from the surrounding area, and of course Muslims from the Islamic Society of Corona were all outside this morning to help make the local Mosque look prettier.

All sorts of people out there helping plant trees.

The event, termed Swords into Plowshares was organized by the Corona-Norco Interfaith Association.  Every year they go to a new religious congregation on 9/11 to beautify it, this year landed it at the Mosque.  There were seriously a couple hundred people out there this morning, it was pretty cool to see.

I didn’t bring any tools, so I just weeded with my hands and tossed some rocks out of the path of a motorized tiller.

In years passed I probably would have scoffed at the absurdity of different religious groups working together, or avoided the scene due to a distaste for gardening and labor in general.  But this was different.  Getting myself out of bed was the hardest part of my morning.  Once I got there it just got better and better.

Weeding the grounds by hand.

I began by pulling weeds with some Mormons, of which I personally knew a few.  When that was basically finished, I moved on to removing rocks from newly tilled soil with a Muslim college student.  We talked about her studies and what she wants to do with them, and I got the opportunity to tell her a little about my travels in Burundi.  It would have been fun to talk more, but I had to go to work.  As I took off, I found one guy I met when I visited the Mosque for the 4th of July and spoke to him for a few minutes, which was really cool.  I also caught a glimpse of my friend from Gambia that I met in Starbucks last night, and was able to say “hi” before running off (click here to read that story).  I left so blessed to have blessed them… isn’t that part of God’s commission to us?

Though nothing “exciting” happened out there this morning, I couldn’t help but think about something that had been on my mind since yesterday:  John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote:

“For he whom Jesus loved hath truly spoken:

The holier worship which he deigns to bless,

Restores the lost, and binds the spirit broken,

And feeds the widow and the fatherless.”

The Bible commentator, William Barclay, expanded on this quatrain writing:

A man may say, “I am going to church to worship God,” but he should also be able to say, “I am going to the factory, the shop, the office, the school, the garage, the locomotive shed, the mine, the shipyard, the field, the byre, the garden, to worship God.”

As I crouched pulling weeds, I prayed silently: “God, this is my act of worship this morning.  May it be acceptable in your sight.”

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