Mini-sermon #1: Life is a Garden 人生は畑
Mini-sermon #2: Typhoons 台風
Kids’ Message – Gardens
Today I’d like to talk about gardens. I’d like to show you some pictures of gardens and I’d like you to tell me which one you like best and why.
Which one do you like best?
One of the things you might have noticed about the gardens is that they are all very different.
And something that is also very interesting about all these different gardens is what they all have in common.
They all need sunshine. They all need water. They all need warmth. They need good soil. They need wind (fresh air). They all need tending. Creatures like bees and butterflies can also be very important for all of these gardens.
So these very different gardens also have some very important elements in common.
We looked at this last month – how we’re all made unique but how we also have a common purpose in God, too.
But today, I want us to think about these gardens.
What happens if it never rains in the garden?
What happens if the wind never blows (no fresh air)?
Everyone likes a sunny day. And sometimes we wish every day could be a lazy, sunny day. But in a garden if everyday is a lazy, sunny day – and there’s no rain, the air movement, there’s no weeding or caring for the garden, then the plants won’t grow, and they will eventually die. We need rainy days and weeding days and so on in the garden – as well as sunny warm days – for the plants to grow healthy and strong.
Our lives are a bit like a garden. We wish everyday could be a happy, sunny day. We don’t like the sad rainy days or the hard, working days. But the sad days and the hard days are actually really important in our lives. It’s on the sad or hard days that we learn who to trust, we grow to be strong, we learn to be patient and kind, and most of all we learn to trust God and that he has a plan for our lives.
So here’s the challenge for you today: whenever you feel you’re having a bad day, when you feel frustrated or angry or tired and grumpy or sad and you feel like crying, I want you to praise God! I want you to say ‘thank you for this bad day!’ to God and remember that it’s on the bad days and in the hard seasons that God is building you and making you a stronger, better person. It probably won’t feel like it. But it’s true. So always remember on the hard days to thank God.
Life is a Garden 人生は畑
In the kids’ message today we talked about gardens. Jesus talked a lot about gardening. He must have really liked it. We’ve got parables of the sower, the weeds, the tenants, the growing seed, the mustard seed. We’ve got the garden of Eden, the fruit of the Spirit. These parables and teachings all talk about cultivating what is important in life.
We’re also taught that there are times and seasons to cultivate and grow different things in our lives and using the analogy of a garden, I’d like to look at 7 life stages and how we can tend them in wise and godly ways, looking at three main areas: Relationships, vocation, ministry.
Stage 1. Preparing the ground 土地を準備する
Examples of this stage might be preparing to move house, choosing/starting a new school, starting a new business or job, choosing a spouse, empty nesting, or changing/starting a new ministry.
The keys: diligence, obedience and faith 勤勉、従順、信仰
This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.Jeremiah 4:3
At this earliest of stages, there is a call to prayer, a need for wise Christian counsel, and a need for due diligence in research/preparation. It’s not enough just to pray and hope that everything will be fine. The Israelites sent out spies to find out what the land would be like. Before embarking on a serious life change, we need to be diligent in doing the groundwork, careful to receive good counsel, and cover everything in prayer. And read the book of Proverbs!
We’ve seen here in our own church the difference between those missionaries who come prepared and those who don’t.
Stage 2. Sowing the seeds. 種を蒔く
Once the ground is prepared, we step out and the project starts.
The keys: patience and perseverance. 忍耐
Parable of the sower – A farmer went out to sow his seed…some fell along the path…Some fell on rocky ground…Other seed fell among thorns…Still other seed fell on good soil. Luke 8:5-8
種まきが種をまきに出て行った。ある種は道ばたに落ち… ほかの種は岩の上に落ち…ほかの種は、いばらの間に落ち ほかの種は良い地に落ちた。ルカによる福音書8:5-8
In this beginning stage it’s important to have positive but realistic expectations. Following the example of the parable of the sower, understand that not all the seeds you plant will grow; not all seeds that grow will bear fruit; and even those that do produce fruit often take time to grow. This is normal in our world. Sometimes we grow impatient and there is temptation to replace long term godly things with short term worldly counterfeits. Be patient. Trust in God’s plans.
Stage 3. Watering the seeds 種に水をやる
Growing a garden is a team effort.
The key: Working together, understanding it’s God’s garden. We work in the garden but it’s always God who makes the garden grow.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6
Watering a garden is easy. A child can do it. No special skill required. Yet water is one of the most important needs of the garden. Jesus said his burden is easy. So don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed.
Water your garden by humbly, gently, caring for those around you, doing faithfully what you have committed to do, assisting those in leadership, following up on those you are reaching out to, and edifying others with kind words and helpful deeds.
Stage 4. Supporting/protecting 支える/守る
Your garden is vulnerable. There is an enemy and his goal is to steal, kill and destroy your garden.
The key: Provide good support in the early stages 早期に良いサポートを備える
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Matthew 21:33
Just as young vines need a trellis and young trees need a stake to grow straight and strong, so new businesses and ministries, new life opportunities, young families and new relationships need special support.
So do what you have to do to protect your garden and all those in it. This might involve things like upgrading equipment (physically and metaphorically speaking), it might involve educating those working with or under you or humbling yourself under authority; meeting with an accountability partner; reviewing bedtimes and introducing curfews and new boundaries to your kids or, if you’re a kid, submitting to necessary guidance and discipline.
Stage 5. Pruning 刈り取る
This can be the hardest stage. Sometimes tough cuts, hard decisions have to be made.
Keys: wisdom, self-discipline 知恵、自制
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2
This might involve laying people off. Changing staff/ministry positions. Cutting off friendships or withdrawing from one area of ministry to focus on another.
It can be hard but don’t let misplaced compassion deter you in doing what needs to be done. Gentleness and timidity are not the same thing. We are to be gentle in our manner but not timid in our doings. Remember, unfruitful branches should be cut off. Fruitful branches get pruned so they can be even more fruitful.
Stage 6. Resting 休息
It’s important that we take time to enjoy the fruitfulness in our lives. Rest is important and counting blessings and recounting God’s faithfulness is good and healthy for us to do.
Key points: Praise and worship 賛美、礼拝
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. Mark 4:27,28
Rest is not so much withdrawing as it is trusting and delighting. Rest in itself can and should be an act of worship. We stop what we’re doing and find ourselves in awe of God.
Stage 7. Harvesting 収穫
Harvesting is reaping, when it is full grown, what was sown.
The key: Being active, bold 行動を起こす、大胆になる
As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come. Mark 4:29
This might be acceptance into a university, a wedding, a graduation, a baptism, a profit. It’s a time of action, a time of celebration and it’s a time of fellowship because we harvest with other workers and we celebrate with family and friends.
You might notice in some ways that the Stage 7 Harvesting and the Stage 1 Preparing the Ground have similarities. The end of one cycle leads to the beginning of another.
Entrust each stage of your garden – each stage of your life – to God. At each stage the command applies that we are to prioritise the kingdom of God and trust that everything else will be added to us.
In mini-sermon #1 we looked at the stages of life through the analogy of a garden.
But what happens when we’re trying to grow a garden and then a typhoon rips through it and destroys everything? What happens when a fire sweeps through and burns all our hard work?
What happens when the stages of our lives are interrupted by tragedy: sickness, death, financial ruin, divorce, rejection, betrayal and so on?
Does the message to the kids this morning – ‘praise God on the bad days’ – still apply to entire seasons which are bad or when we’re in the midst of the deepest tragedies?
I’d like to read an extraordinary passage to you from Psalm 66: 8-12
Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
Even tragedy and long seasons of trouble call for praise. Why? Because God’s plans are still for peace and not disaster, they are plans to give you a future and a hope.
We saw this with the deliverance of the Jews out of Egypt. We saw it when they returned to Jerusalem after exile in Babylon. Most of all we saw it when Jesus was killed by evil men and nailed to a cross but God raised him from the dead. God still breathes new life into lives today.
If we are in Christ, it’s never over. God’s plans prevail. Deliverance and salvation are eternal gifts. And so we say with the Psalmist, “Lord, I trust in your unfailing love”.
We serve a good God. Praise Him.