It was a strange time to take up farming as a hobby.
In the early 6th century BCE, as the vast armies of Nebuchadnezzar laid waste to the land and people of Judah, a man named Jeremiah received surprising instructions from God: “Buy [the] field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.”
By investing in a scrap of soil soon to be checkered by Babylonian bootprints, Jeremiah demonstrated God’s intention to restore Judah to a future of peace and abundance: For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. (Jeremiah 32:8,15 NRSV)
During scary and uncertain seasons, I take comfort in God’s ‘Anathoth promise’ and Jeremiah’s faith. God calls us to connect with the land, to plant seeds, to put down roots, and to expect abundance, even (to quote a favorite hymn) when “other helpers fail and comforts flee;” even when “change and decay in all around [we] see.” In the humble practice of gardening, therefore, I find one of the truest embodiments of Christian hope.
As your new INUMC Creation Care Coordinator, I am eager to celebrate the work and witness of our ‘Anathoth congregations’ who are imitating Jeremiah’s faithful response to God. By turning (or tilling) our church lawnscapes into productive community gardens, growing food for (and with) our neighbors, we are proving our belief that God is truly Immanuel in our world; that salvation is a long-term project of the Holy Spirit; that healthy soil and healthy neighborhoods and healthy bodies matter to God.
At our 2022 Annual Conference, we will be sharing three ‘Anathoth Awards’ to local churches who best exemplify Jeremiah’s bold little investment in the soil of ancient Judah.
If your church raised a garden of any size in 2021, your Diversity, Missions, and Justice Team wants to hear about your ministry experience. What did you grow? What did you learn? Who did you meet along the way? How did God use your investment to reveal hope and a future to the world around you? Did you have any photos?
Please e-mail the attached form and any pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions should arrive by March 13, 2022.
Rev. Jake Ohlemiller is the Senior Pastor of Lafayette Grace United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Indiana