Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 October 23 - Tomatoes (30th Sunday Ordinary Time A)

I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking – I wonder why Deacon Mike is carrying a hoe in church?

Well I’ll tell you why – because Fr. Eugene wouldn’t let me bring in the wheelbarrow full of manure that I wanted to use as a prop!
I’ve got this hoe because today – I want to talk about tomatoes – but not just ANY tomatoes – HOMEGROWN tomatoes.  I love them!  Some of my favorite foods are made from tomatoes:  salsa, lasagna, BLT sandwich – although I’ve still not thought of a way to make tomato and ice cream go together…
Have you heard the old song, “there’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s ‘true love’ and ‘homegrown tomatoes’.  It’s true – you can’t buy a true friend any more than you can buy a homegrown tomato.  Why is that?  Because you gotta work for it.  Anybody in a real, loving marriage will tell you it takes work.  You can’t just coast along or the relationship will fade.  Same goes for tomatoes.  I can’t just sit on my porch and comment about how nice the garden looks.  If I never got off the porch, the garden would never get planted…. Never get weeded… even the fruit would never get picked.  No – if I want homegrown tomatoes, I gotta get my hands dirty, invest my time and sweat, fertilize them and keep the weeds down with this hoe.
But in the end – that’s part of what make me love my homegrown tomatoes:  I get to see and even EAT the fruits of my own labor.  If I didn’t have to work for them, they wouldn’t have much value to me. 
By working my garden,  I’m participating with God to create something – I supply the sweat – he supplies the sun, rain, dirt, photosynthesis, pollination.  By co-operating with God’s plan for the garden, I not only help the garden, but I help myself….and all the people I get to give-away veggies to.
This is where my garden applies to today’s Gospel – Jesus told us “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength… “
What’s that look like?  Is it kneeling in prayer 24-hours-a-day?  Raising our hands and voices to sing praises to God?  We can only understand how to love God through our human understanding of love.  For example, I love my wife and family:  What’s that look like?  I spend time with them whenever I can – I make them a priority in my life – I do things for them – I speak nicely to them and about them – I share in their sorrows and their joys. 
Is that what love of God would look like?  Sort-of… I think that’s why Jesus added the second part – ‘and Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
Did you ever hear of Dorothy Day? is one of those modern-day saints.  Most famous for the Catholic Worker movement, she spent much of her life caring for the poor – starting during the Depression in the 30’s.  One day was going particularly badly – trying to keep her ‘guests’ from fighting, trying to keep enough food on the table, then one of her guests came in drunk and threw-up on her.  Exasperated and tired at the end of the day, she went to the chapel and looked up at the crucifix and said – ‘Jesus- you really make it hard to love you sometimes’. 
Dorothy understood very well what Jesus said today – Loving God is the most important thing there is…. But loving your neighbor is just as important.  The reason both statements can be true is that we Love God BY loving our neighbor.  Reaching out to the poor, to friends in need, and to enemies in need… that is how we Love God…and that is how we experience the joy of heaven right here – right now.  For Dorothy, the poor were ambassadors of God.  They were sent so that she could experience the Love of God by loving them.
Sometimes it seems overwhelming – like we have one tragedy after another hitting our community.  We just start to recover from one blow and we get hit from the other side.  It would be easy to get discouraged and to give up on God’s faithfulness.  It seems like he’s forgotten us sometimes.
But if we look at it from the perspective of Dorothy Day – every tragedy – every bad medical report, every struggling alcoholic, every family trying to pay their bills, every parent praying in the waiting room at the hospital… every one of those is God reaching out to you and me – to tug on our heartstrings to remind us to LOVE HIM.  We love Him by loving Them.
Most of us have a natural instinct to help others – it’s in our blood – it’s how we were raised.  We don’t like feeling helpless.  We see someone hurting, and we wish there was something we could do.
The Grace Co-Op was setup just for that reason.  The Co-op works like this:  when YOU know of somebody who needs help, you can give to the Co-Op, and we can make the donation to them anonymously.  In addition, you are giving other people the chance to help that person as well.  Let me give you an example:
Paul and Sue both had low-paying jobs, but there were making it fine – until a couple years ago when suddenly a medical issue forced him out of work.  He spent lots of money trying to get it fixed – but it actually got worse instead of better.  He’s been out of work for a couple years now.  She still has her low-paying job, but no benefits.  Financially, they are in trouble.  To make matters worse, the doctors told them he needed another treatment or else things would get even worse.  Their family really wanted to help them out, but were afraid their pride would get in the way.  They were able to put the word out via email to family and friends that if they wanted to help, they could give to the Grace Co-op – and a donation would be sent to them anonymously.  Unbelievably, over $4000 was collected – and they didn’t hesitate to accept the check that was sent to them.  Paul and Sue experienced the Grace of God by receiving His blessings through the Co-Op.  However, the family and friends ALSO experienced the Grace of God by sharing the gifts they had been given – and therefore feeling useful.  Half  the problem with helping others is know WHAT TO DO.
In your pews, you’ll find some brochures for the Grace Co-op.  We are NOT collecting money!!!  What we ARE collecting are names of people who would like to be on our resource list.  We want to have a list of people whom we can call whenever a need is brought to our attention.  However – we know that not everybody is made of money – so we want to provide some other ways for people to help:  driving someone to a doctor’s appointment, helping the elderly with yard work, delivering a meal to someone… there’s a whole list of ideas.  Please take a moment to consider how you might like to help and fill out the sheet in the brochure – then you can drop it in the collection – or contact me anytime to get in on the action.
A farmer grew award-winning tomatoes. Each year he entered his tomatoes in the state fair where they won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his tomato seeds with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seeds with your neighbors when they are competing against you each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening tomatoes and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior tomatoes, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my crop.
If I am to grow good tomatoes, I must help my neighbors grow good tomatoes.”.

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