Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Learning Spirituality from Plants! Flower Celebration Sunday Message

Homily (Sermonette) by Rev. Roger from UUSS Flower Communion Sunday, June 2, 2013 (All-Ages Worship Service)


Writing in his journal in 1859, Henry David Thoreau says that “the mystery of the life of plants” is like the mystery of our own human lives. He cautions the scientist against trying to explain their growth “according to mechanical laws” or the way engineers might explain the machines that they make.   There is a magic ingredient, to go along with air and sun, earth, water and nutrients. There is one part miracle to every living thing, he says. The force of life. A force we can feel and recognize, but cannot create or control.

For my birthday I received a planter from our Religious Education staff person, Miranda.   To ensure its longevity I left it in her office, and it has flourished. But when she departed for two months in Ghana, a post-it note appeared on the planter: Roger, remember to water me.

            I am not reliable around green things. I have nearly killed off a cactus—a small one I got last Christmas. I remember when I was little, in school, planting seeds in Dixie cups with dirt an inch deep.   Watching the sprouts, helping them along; it was fun. Then, a few years later, a friend of the family helped me plant a garden in the back yard: green beans, tomatoes, onions. Delicious, for one or two summers.

But my horticultural karma was all downhill from there. In high school I mowed grass for a few neighbors and friends of my mom. One family had a large yard around their large house. They asked me to pull or cut out the weeds growing close to the house.  This was before the days of the weed-whacker, which would have been fun to use. Using my bare hands—not fun. So I drizzled gasoline on the weeds near the outside walls, all the way around. Killed all their weeds. Filled the house with fumes, I found out later.

To the good fortune of the plant kingdom, in my adult life I’ve never had a yard or a garden, nearly always lived in an apartment. Here in the church’s community garden, which we call UURTHSONG, a few summers ago at lunchtime I helped myself to a few meals of tomatoes and chard, but I haven’t dared to plant a garden plot.

I know many of you garden, with lovely flowers and gorgeous vegetables. You have citrus and plum and fig trees and so many other kinds. Some of you are Master Gardeners. Some of you sell plants for a living, or you work in landscaping and grounds-keeping.

Some of you volunteer with plants, like our member Jerry, who spends many a weekday tending the flowerbeds and flowerpots here at the church. Some of you, like Nancy and Gail, give tours at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center on the American River Parkway, among other outdoor places. Annie and other UUSS Waterbugs tend our thirsty trees and bushes year after year.

As I noted, my experience with plants is questionable, so I can’t be sure what it’s like for people who put hour after hour into the lives of growing green things. But this is what it might be like.   Planting, tending, watering, weeding, harvesting, transplanting… it involves a mix of your own physical power, and the patience to wait and see what happens. It calls for intention and effort, and then for humility.

            One cannot bring plants into bloom, or force them to bear fruit. You have to learn enough to know when and where to plant them, how much water and fertilizer to give, how much to weed, when to prune or plow over, and of course you need to know what not to do.

You do your part, waiting, watching, tending. You wait on the force of life. You wait on a miracle, an everyday ordinary miracle. Seeing a vine crawl, blossoms yielding fruit, colors calling for bees and other pollinating insects. Miracles happen a lot. But we can’t make them happen. We can’t make life happen.

I wonder if this is a helpful way to think about our spirituality. There are new and modern resources for spiritual growth, and there are ancient practices.   We can draw on all of them, of course.   Yet the main ingredient is paying attention. Watching ourselves, noticing reactions, sensations, desires. Observing the world around us—the plants, the people, the traffic, the sunlight. Gently tending to the needs around us.

Preparing ourselves.

Perhaps we can think of spiritual growth from the perspective of a faithful gardener.   Not a prizewinning perfectionist whose work is on the cover of a magazine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I bet most of us aren’t up to that much effort in spiritual practice (or in gardening).

I’m thinking of a gardener like a humble companion, a curious visitor. As a humble gardener tending our own growth, we remember to check in with ourselves, on a regular basis. We notice the world around us. We tend our gardens. We wait in humility, and we remember to practice patience. We don’t worry about explaining too much, about figuring ourselves out, as if we were machines, predictable and controllable. We don’t try to fix, only to encourage, nurture, water and feed.

We can’t make plants grow, but we can help them, and watch the miracle happen. We can’t force ourselves to grow spiritually—and we certainly can’t make somebody else grow. But we can be present and attentive. Be intentional. Notice what might help, or ask. Practice a bit more patience.

Then, we can enjoy the results. We give thanks for what we are able to harvest, thanks for the results of our waiting and watching.

Give thanks for the ground of our being. And celebrate every ordinary miracle.

So may it be. Blessed be. Amen.



Sunday Summary for UUSS on October 2, 2011

Today Doug preached a sermon about selflessness and led us through some meditation exercises. I was in Religious Education for most of the service but some people exiting when I got back told me it was “awesome” and that it “blew me away.”  At both services we had a number of new and returning visitors, several infants and toddlers with grown ups in tow, and a lot of 20-somethings.

In RE today we didn’t have regular classes, but all ages were together in the UURTHSONG community garden (founded 2009) on our campus. Junior high and younger kids harvested tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers and then washed them, cut them up with scissors, and made salsa. We had good corn chips for scooping up the non-runny fresh stuff!

Glory was in charge, along with Joan, Patricia, Damon, and a few others.   I showed a few kids the zucchini plants and demonstrated that you can eat the delicate orange flower; at least one tried it himself. Some middle schoolers thought it would be cool to try a jalapeno pepper. Before the first bite kicked in, one of them had some more. Within minutes I had to make a milk run for one of them, and then a second run for another. I also told an even smaller kid that maybe he should stop eating so many cute little tomatoes. I said “It might give you diarrhea.” I figured I needed to be blunt. He said that lots of things give him diarrhea. I do apologize to those plot-holding members who lost an eggplant and a watermelon to an eager collector who didn’t realize the names on the signs meant that some were not community plots. Sorry!

While little kids were frolicking and harvesting, Keith White got out the tools and gave chores to the Senior High Youth Group: digging up dead plants and sawing some thick dried old stalks. They got into it: one working at a time, and the others clustered around watching. Though one girl came to ask for trowels, so I think more of them got into the act.
This coming Saturday morning is Garden Clean-out Day, so all will be torn out. If you have a plot, be sure to harvest the last of your produce. Whether or not you have had a plot this season, you are welcome to come and help out on Saturday.

We got beautiful new additions to our Welcome Table and RE Family Table area in the Lobby: hand-built and stained wooden welcome tables at different heights for different heights of visitors and children. Thanks to Dick for his craftsmanship and generosity. Thanks to the task force for your work.

After the second service we had our first Soup Lunch of the fall (and we ran out of soup, so by the time I went through the line all we had was cookies. I managed.) Groups volunteer to provide soup, bread, and dessert and we charge only $4 per adult.

After soup we had a very thorough and inspiring presentation of our Master Plan with our architect, Jeff Gold. You can see the plans and guiding principles at the church website.  I am sure our Master Planning team will post a report on the conversation at the Master Planning blog:

Finally: today we got a few more donations for UU Association Sunday, so I think we are about $100 shy of last year’s tally of $1,500. We’ll send the checks in later, so there is still time.  If you click that link you can see a video of UUA president Peter Morales, and you can find a link to donate.  Or you can slip a check into my hot little hands.

Blessing of the Community Garden, UU Society of Sacramento

UU Society of Sacramento Community Garden Blessing
Sunday, May 19, 2009

Ringing of the Bell

Welcome and Background                Pat Naylor

Opening                                                 Rev. Roger Jones
Welcome to a special event in the unfolding history of this congregation:  the naming, dedication and blessing of our community garden. You know, a couple of months ago there was no garden in this place.  Today we thank all those who helped make it happen and we celebrate this new addition to our ministries of learning and serving.

Naming of the Garden
[It was announced that Candy McMorris had won the contest for a name for the garden…and the name is:  UURTH SONG.]

Blessings of the Four Directions            Roger and Four Others
Written By the Rev. Beth Johnson

We call upon the Spirits of East, Spirits of Air, Dawn, Spring
Come forth from your lovely realm to bless this garden.
Bring forth birds and butterflies on soft, gentle breezes.
In times of planting may we sow seeds that bear much fruit and flower.
Blessed Be.

We call upon the Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, Noon, Summer
Come forth from your lovely realm to bless this garden.
Bring forth the sun’s bright rays that give the warmth and light needed to grow our garden of plenty and bring joy and celebration to all.
Blessed Be.

We call upon Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, Twilight, Autumn
Come forth from your lovely realm to bless this garden.
Bring forth the gentle rains needed to help our garden grow and assure a bountiful harvest to share with each other and people in need.
Blessed Be.

We call upon the Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, Midnight, Winter
Come forth from your lovely realm to bless this garden
Nurture the roots and seeds in the rich pungent earth.
Teach us patience and faith when the garden goes through its dormant times.  Blessed Be.

Song Offered by Children (& Everyone)        Joan Rubenson
“The Garden Song”  (“Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.…”)

Blessing Litany                        Roger
Unison Response:  May this garden be a blessing!

Today we dedicate and celebrate this new creation.
May this garden be a blessing!

Let us praise the sacred mystery of creation, and the source of the sun and the rain, which call forth green things from the ground.
May this garden be a blessing!

Let us honor the hands that that plant, water, weed, hoe and harvest in this place.
May this garden be a blessing!

May the bounty of this place remind us of our connections to all of life and all of humanity, around the globe and in our own communities.
May this garden be a blessing!

May we remember those who are hungry or malnourished, and in our gratitude let us remember the ability and resources we have to make a difference.
May this garden be a blessing!

Let us greet the squirrels, birds and other critters who live around here, and let us pray that they might find enough food outside the bounds of our garden to be satisfied.
May this garden be a blessing!

And now, let us dedicate ourselves to the joyful tasks ahead:  working in the garden, harvesting and savoring its yield, and sharing it with one another.
May this garden be a blessing!
Let the people say Amen!  Amen!

Closing of the Ritual
As we conclude our dedication and as we depart from this place for now, let us go with gratitude.  Let us go in peace and return in joy.
The ritual is ended.  Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.
Blessed be.