Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, November 6, 2014

God's Garden

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more. --Psalm 103:15-16

I have heard many times that we are born to live forever somewhere.  This is usually in the context of a message about salvation.  We will live forever in heaven with the Lord, or, if we reject Him, be confined forever to hell.  It’s true that life does not end with the death of our physical bodies, but it is equally true and certain that we will die, that “…this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Paul may well have had this passage from Psalm 103 and similar ones in mind as he wrote the words of what we think of as the fifteenth chapter of his letter.  A person’s life on this material plane is very much like a flower that grows to blossom and fade.  Some seem to be convinced that is all there is.  Others believe that the resemblance to the flower’s cycle is more metaphorical, that the husk of our bodies contain the seed of something greater than what we see now. 

If you think about it, not all seeds are viable.  As one who saves seeds from various plants like beans, melons, and squash, I find that some seeds don’t germinate at all.  Others produce less than ideal fruit.  One of the problems is often cross-pollination.  Gardeners sometimes do not realize that watermelon, cucumbers and cantaloupe are capable of crossing with one another, or that having different varieties of squash growing together will likely result in less than ideal crops the following season.  Being set out with adequate separation prevents the loss of viability through undesirable crosses.  Perhaps there is a lesson for us. 

What grows from a seed very much depends upon what went into it.  The husk that encases it matters only in that is properly protects the life inside and does not overly hamper its sprouting.  Even though an acorn looks vastly different from a bean, the real difference is not in the outward appearance but the inner living matter.  In us, that is the spirit and the Living Word: 

The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:7-8).

It’s not that this life is not important.  I have struggled with that.  What does my life here matter?  If that spiritual seed is going to be healthy, acceptable, and valid, the life I live here has to absorb the power of the Light.  I have to live upon and incorporate the Truth as a plant draws in the elements of vegetative life from the soil, sun, and air, that when the husk of my physical body is sown, the seed will prove to be pure, genuine, and true.


Rogelio Bueno said...

I like the way you think. Very thought provoking.
I think I see a little George MacDonald in your words. If the seed does represent, in another way than the Gospel, the inner life of a man, his soul(?) if you will, then what does happen to those "bad seed" when this life is over?

julie said...

Being set out with adequate separation prevents the loss of viability through undesirable crosses.

Interesting. Being possessed of a brown thumb, I had not realized cross-pollination could be such a problem, but of course that makes a lot of sense, horizontally and vertically.

mushroom said...

I was wondering about that myself. I'm not sure how "expandable" the analogy is. If you bring in the idea of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, you can quickly get a Calvinist bent -- of which MacDonald would not approve.

In the Parable of the Sower, all the seed is good because it is the Word, and the trouble lies in the soils -- the hearts which receive it. But in Wheat and Tares, the weed seed itself is bad and sown by the enemy. Those kind of bad seed are doomed by their nature.

I know I always have to be careful about carrying the messages of parables and figurative language too far.

Just my opinion, then, is that there is something like Purgatory, and a lot of us will need to pass through it. First Corinthians 3 where Paul talks about our works being tried by fire would apply here, too.

It may be that a person with a bad, weak, underdeveloped, unproductive inner life will be developed post-death.

To say that one's punishment or that hell is "eternal" doesn't necessarily mean that it goes on forever. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is eternal. It's now, and yet it is finished.

I fully believe that it is given unto man once to die and after that the judgment. I'm not so sure what happens after that. I suppose one could imagine that it just means every time someone dies, they have to face judgment.

mushroom said...

I have seen it happen with cucumber and cantaloupes. My wife really liked the cucumbers that grew from that but then that set of seeds would not germinate.

julie said...

I was just thinking of another comment I heard yesterday, arguing against the "many paths to God" idea. The concept that there is only one "right" way becomes a lot more interesting if seen as an argument against spiritual "cross-pollination." I have long thought, thanks largely to Schuon, that for the vast majority of people it is best to choose one (valid) spiritual path and, as much as possible, live it fully.

Rogelio Bueno said...

Parable of the Sower -
I'm with you here. I'm always a little hesitant to talk about the idea of some type of purgatorial passage or the idea of eventual universal reconciliation (Ephesians 1:10) for concern that some will think I'm a Catholic/Universalist.
I don't pretend to understand it but I am convinced that God is a lot bigger than I can imagine. I'm not sure if there is an eventual universal salvation but if there is many of us will be taken there like the camel through the eye of a needle - tiny bits at a time. I don't think God will be punishing the sinner so much as it will be punishingly difficult for the sinner to let go of the things he loves that will not fit through the door - i.e. "The Great Divorce"

mushroom said...

That's where I'm at, too, Roger. The Great Divorce is one of my favorites. MacDonald is hardly alone in his Universalism. Hannah Whitall Smith is another person revered by mainstream evangelicals who thought along those lines.

I come embracing universal reconciliation than hard-core Calvinism.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.(Romans 5:18)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

I'm still looking for "elect" in there.

mushroom said...

"I come NEARER embracing..." that should say.

mushroom said...

The concept that there is only one "right" way becomes a lot more interesting if seen as an argument against spiritual "cross-pollination."

That's a good point. The different varieties of plants are both good; it just doesn't work to cross them. Cool.

neal said...

Health and Safety can be mundane and esoteric.
I mean, Life and Death, and not being cool enough, and being Lucky.

All Scripture, just histories and animal stories. Not metaphor, or reflection.

Maybe a form of communication that works with the lucky, and not to consensus.

You know, when one digs down through the layers of Man, a lot of stuff gets built, and burned down.

Some parts get back up, some parts sleep. Some things just watch.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Others believe that the resemblance to the flower’s cycle is more metaphorical, that the husk of our bodies contain the seed of something greater than what we see now."

As above, sow below.

Also, undesirable cross-pollination is not good but Cross pollination is.

mushroom said...

That's true, too. My apple trees won't bear fruit without the presence of different varieties.

We do learn from and benefit one another whatever our traditions.