Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:9-13: And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear. And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that is was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.
As I am preparing to go out and work in my yard on this beautiful Saturday morning, I was thinking about my grandfather, Paul, who was always out working in his yard or in his garden. Paul lived in Banks County about a mile from where I grew up. I vividly remember Paul and the beautiful flowers that he grew and the impressive garden that he had every year. Paul loved the earth, the soil and the beautiful plants and vegetation that it produced. He believed it to be a blessing from God, a gift spoken from God. Paul also believed that it was our duty to take good care of the earth and to also share in its abundance, as he often did with everyone in the community from his garden.
Paul was a “character,” he had a witty sense of humor and he was a very friendly man. I remember him sitting in his usual pew on the left side of Harmony Baptist Church beside one of the windows. Paul always arrived about thirty minutes early to church, driving his powder blue Ford Fairlane. Many times Paul would be sitting under a shade tree at the edge of the parking lot where it was cooler.That was his time to sit outside and have a conversation with God before the service began. Paul, I believe, felt closer to God when he was outside.
Paul always had lots of stories to tell and I would like to share one of those with you today. Paul tells the story of being a young boy (about 10 years old) sitting in church one Sunday. The preacher was one of those preachers, according to Paul, that would pound his fist on the pulpit and would really get worked up when preaching a sermon.
Paul said that he was sort of afraid of the preacher and he usually sat near the back row. On this particular Sunday, Paul’s mother was sick and he went to church alone. He was sitting in the back row and the preacher was in rare form on this hot summer Sunday morning.
The pastor was preaching on the Apostle Paul and one of his missionary journeys. Paul, my grandfather, wasn’t paying much attention until the preacher started preaching on how God told Paul to go and spread the gospel. The preacher started yelling, “Paul, Paul, go and spread the gospel, go to where I tell you to go – Paul, go, go, get up and go!”
My grandfather Paul said he jumped up out of his seat; he ran out the church door, ran home and got under his bed. His mother, scared, not knowing what had happened to Paul got down on the floor and looked under the bed and said, “Paul, what is wrong with you!” Paul said, “The preacher saw that I had fallen asleep and when I woke up he was yelling, Paul, Paul, get up and go!” And so I got up and left, and ran as fast as I could home.”
Paul’s garden was beautiful each and every year. The corn that he grew was magnificent, his tomatoes were unbelievable, and the beans and peas that he grew were out of this world. Paul had a “green thumb”, a gift of taking the good earth and growing vegetables, flowers, anything. And Paul always acknowledged that it was a gift from God and that it was his duty to take good care of the good earth that God had so richly blessed him with.
When Paul passed away, the preacher at his funeral told the story of a time when he went to visit Paul and saw him down in the garden. The preacher said that he heard Paul talking but he didn’t see anyone else around. As he approached Paul, he saw him holding up a big, fine potato in one hand and he realized that Paul was talking to the other potatoes that were still in the ground. He was holding up this big, healthy looking potato and saying to the other ones, “now boys, this is what you all are supposed to look like.”
Genesis 1: 27-31a: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food. And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.