I know next to nothing about gardening, which is both sad and somewhat dangerous given the beautiful roses beside the parsonage. Some of you have marveled at the four bushes and their blooms: yellow, white, red, and a lovely hybrid, more orange than peach with red tips and highlights (it looks almost good enough to eat for breakfast!)
Anyway, Jo and I have enjoyed both seeing the roses and cutting them now and then to fill a vase indoors, and truth to tell it feels to us kind of “suburban” or something to be living in a house with rose bushes. We did have a large gardenia in Marshville, right outside the kitchen window, and its fragrant flowers thrilled my late mother-in-law while she lived with us. Flowers and fragrances—two of God’s good gifts.
The other day, though, I noticed that the roses did not look quite right. They were paler than usual and there were holes in the petals. I thought at first maybe they were just getting old and tired but when I looked closer I saw these…these green creatures…down deep between the petals. Turns out there were Japanese beetles, lots of them, feasting on the roses and, soon enough, killing them. What had been lovely and delicate flowers were reduced to barren nubs on the ends of dry stems.
I have done battle with these “flora-vores” the last couple of weeks, buying the chemicals at Lowe’s and spraying the bushes—die, beetles, die!—and the roses themselves are doing their best to keep growing in spite of the attacks, but sometimes the battle seems futile. The green enemy is plentiful and sneaky, undetectable apart from daily vigilance and doing well what it does naturally—feasting on beauty, killing God’s good gifts. And it is a parable, really, what is going on beside the parsonage.
Sin, gossip, blame, mercilessness—there are these and many other creatures ever at work in the garden of God’s church. Only daily vigilance—and by that I mean real prayer and genuine forgiveness, praise and thanksgiving—can keep them from destroying God’s good and beautiful gifts.