Sometimes I hear God speak in parables to me, not in words but in the things that surround me. Recently I had one of those moments as I was mowing my lawn. You see, I have one of those “typical” Vermont lawns that are a mix of four varieties of actual grass (none of which match), at least that many kinds of broadleaf weeds, some well-established clover, the perennial dandelions, a smattering of Indian paintbrush, an occasional nettle, and other things that I don’t even recognize. And this lawn could be a source of frustration to me if I was a perfectionist who was obsessed with fertilizing and reseeding it, digging out everything that I thought did not belong, setting its exact limits and layout, and never being satisfied until it was uniform and manicured, a lawn that met all of my expectations and preferences. But I am no longer that person. I look at the lawn and I have a certain satisfaction in its variety and content…it always grows and needs frequent mowing, it is mostly green, there are very few bare spots, and it seems to tolerate seasons of both rain and dryness without dying out.
And it was at that moment that I recognized that what was true of my lawn, was true of my community, my nation, my world, my church. None of these venues will ever fully meet my expectations, I will never find a uniformity of belief, or opinion, or lifestyle. And that diversity could continuously vex my soul, or it could simply be the reality that I have to live in by the grace of God and to the best of my abilities, trying, as the Apostle Paul said, to live at peace with every person so far as that possibility is present in me. As Jesus taught in the gospel, I cannot seek to justify myself by asking the question “And just who is my neighbor?” I have no other option than to love each and every neighbor as I love myself, regardless of whether I agree with them, like them, or even have anything in common with them. They do not answer to me anyway, they belong to Jesus and He has already warned us that there are wheat and tares growing up side by side but that this does not bother God as much as it seems to bother me. I have come to realize that I no longer wish to be fighting a constant war with a world that Jesus came to save. There will come a day when all things are made clear and when the final sorting out takes place, but that task is given to Jesus, not me. My part is simply to love my neighbor as myself; in doing that I find that I find that I also love and honor God with every part of my life and being.
Russell currently serves as an elder in the church. His own spiritual pilgrimage extends back almost 40 years and includes a sojourn in the Roman Catholic, American Baptist, Lutheran, Independent Charismatic, Independent Congregational, home fellowship, and Federated Congregational church settings. In these settings he has served as a catechist, bible teacher, independent school principal, outreach coordinator, and ordained pastor. His current life verse is Romans 1:15. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you…”