Are You and Innie or an Outie (part two)

– Andy Wade –

In part one of this article I looked a the difference between inner, private gardens and more outward-focused public gardens and how blend of these two options is actually a more balanced approach. Today I want to explore how Eucharist/Communion can help us better understand how our gardens might become an expression of community and welcome.

Eucharist AND Communion

(Eucharist=gratefulness, Communion=sharing in common)

What I’m really nurturing in the front yard is an offering of myself and the lessons I’ve learned while being tended by God in the back yard. This struck me as I began planning what to plant in the community tea and herb garden. Talking with neighbors and drawing on my own experiences, I had narrowed down the possibilities.

greenhouse.1The next consideration was what plants I already had nurtured and grown in the backyard that I could divide, transplant, or propagate for the front. This is when God began showing me that what is cultivated by God in the inner life is meant for an offering for the world through the outer life.

Kept secluded in the backyard, what grows there is for me (and my family). It’s private and personal, not unlike faith in America. But God’s purposes are so much bigger! In fact, one could argue that a very private faith is more like growing your garden in a pot that is too small; you might get “fruit”, but the plant will become root-bound and diseased, eventually causing the plant to rot from the roots up. We are not created to live alone.

If we’re attentive, that which is nurtured deep within us by God’s Spirit bears a rich harvest of gratefulness which is not hoarded but rather shared openly and freely with the world around us. Images of the Israelite’s experience with manna in the desert come to mind (Ex. 16:13-26). Jesus’ sacrifice is central to this lesson as well. Offering himself “for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:50-51) was quickly followed by the Great Commission and Pentecost – deep, inner, personal transformation so that all would be blessed. Thanksgiving AND Communion.

Wirzba on Eucharist/Communion

At the Lord’s Supper, Christians do not merely recall Christ’s sacrificial death but participate in it in such a way that their living is a proclamation of the resurrection life made possible on the cross… Christian sacrifice is about learning how to make one’s own life into a gift that creates communion. (Food & Faith, pp. 128-129)

Persons who feed on Jesus are challenged to relate to others in a new way. Rather than engaging them primarily in utilitarian terms, absorbing them to suit their personal need and satisfaction, eaters of Jesus are invited to extend his ministries of attention and welcome, feeding and forgiving, and healing and reconciliation. These are ministries that require us to remember others and keep them on our hearts and minds. (Food & Faith, pp. 157-158)

Norman Wirzba,  Food & Faith: A Theology of Eating

What does it mean to “make one’s own life into a gift that creates communion”? This is what I’m learning through this Lenten garden transformation. There is sharing with others what has been cultivated: the plants, the fruit, the extra seed-starts I plant so that I have plenty to give to others. This is the sharing that, in many ways, comes more easily to me. I am “in control”. Sure, I’m sharing with others, and this is vital. But the other side of the equation is receiving.

If my whole life is about giving but I am reluctant or even refuse to receive, my life is not a gift of communion. Communion, sharing together, implies both giving and receiving. If I allow my front yard (or any “ministry”) to become simply a place to give, it can easily become just a pietistic expression of a root-bound faith. To make my life into a gift that creates communion requires not just giving, but also receiving. One of the greatest gifts we can give others is the gift of receiving from others with humility, gratitude, and appreciation for our interdependence. Is there space in my garden for you, for your contribution?

In the Bible we see this expression of interdependence most clearly in the book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

In this short passage we see a communal cultivation of inner faith. We witness personal sacrifice for the purpose of mutual giving and receiving in such a way that no one has too much, and no one has too little. We see the inner focus as a community, but also the inclusive and welcoming nature of that community as “the Lord added to their number daily”. There is, no doubt, an “innie” nature to what’s happening here. But that “innie” nature is so bound up and co-mingled with the “outie” nature that a kind of inner/outer synergy is achieved, resulting in an overflow of abundance, gratitude, and mutuality – – Eucharist AND Communion.

There really is no conclusion to this post – – it’s an open learning lab. What it means to live so that my life becomes a gift of communion is a life-long lesson. It requires that careful attention be paid to both the inner life and the outer life… and to how they co-mingle in such a way that the soil in which they grow is deep, rich, and healthy. And it’s a life, a faith, that cannot be cultivated in isolation.


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