In both, organic, locally cultivated and fresh is best

Years ago John Denver sang a song (written by Guy Clark) that says:

Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Our church hosts the Lion’s Club farmer’s market on the first Saturday of each month. Vendors offer vegetables and much more: tamales, jam, pickles, popsicles, caramels. Grower/producers pride themselves on using natural methods and ingredients.

People get tired of mass-produced, preservative-laden products. They crave food prepared in a deliberate and thoughtful way. North Oak Cliff has become known for its community gardens, niche shops and quality restaurants that offer different takes on everyday foods.

So what implications does a homegrown flair have on spirituality and the way that faith is practiced? Let me plant four seeds in your mind.

First, faith is best when it’s practiced locally. Even if one is part of a congregation outside of Oak Cliff, faith becomes real in the neighborhood places where we live, work and play. It’s personal and authentic. Faith in the way of Jesus embeds in culture and seeks to bless others on a daily basis.

Second, faith must be fresh. The infinitely creative Spirit of God always calls us into fresh expressions. Faith can be demonstrated in hundreds of fresh ways — through meditative prayer, poetry, gardening, baking, sewing, serving by mowing yards, or reaching out to a neighbor who is hurting. Our community needs more than stale, churchy clichés and explanations. It needs the gospel translated through transformed lives.

Third, faith must be ecologically balanced. Mission efforts concern more than the saving of souls. Just as local farmers consider the long-term use of soil, we need to be concerned with our long-term impact in a community. Honoring our local context means approaching our community in humility and reverence and being mindful of the impact of our presence. We inherited the soil in which we work, and one day others will work the soil. What are we leaving behind?

Finally, faith must be pure. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Organic farmers use as few pesticides as possible or none at all. Our motives, approach and activities should all spring from hearts that are pure. Mission efforts can’t be a bait-and-switch to get people to come to a worship service. To truly see God, there must be a genuineness and love that reaches out without having control over the outcomes.

Money can’t buy homegrown tomatoes, and it can’t buy a spiritual experience. Faith needs to be local, fresh, ecologically balanced and pure for it to be really satisfying. It takes planting (stepping out in faith), watering (intentional spiritual development), sunshine (acts of kindness and compassion) and weeding (removing that which inhibits or kills the spiritual life). We can’t buy faith like that. But when we give our lives to such an organic process, we’ll cultivate something even sweeter than a homegrown tomato: the life of love.