A Guest Post by Jamie Bay
This is the fourteenth in a series of posts engaging with the sermons in Leaps of Faith: Sermons from the Edge. This post is a reflection upon an Easter sermon entitled “A Garden in the Wasteland” (pp. 50-56). The Scriptural texts for the sermon were Galatians 5:13-26 and Isaiah 35:1-7.
Several years ago I was sitting in a class of the Tyndale In-Ministry M.Div. program (in which Rob now teaches) and Donald Goertz told us that we needed to remember the importance of dirt. “Don’t be a church that forgets the value of dirt,” he said.
When Rob preached “A Garden in the Wasteland” at Chartwell we were a church in the midst of change. Our Lead Pastor of seventeen years had just left. Several families were going elsewhere. We were in a hiring process that caused uncertainty for many. In the midst of this, we invited Rob to preach the first sermon in a series on the fruit of the Spirit. What we heard from Rob was that our God is a God who plants gardens and grows fruit. Our God is a God who takes wastelands and, by the Spirit, brings forth fruit. This is the way that God is at work.
As I sat among our church family, I was struck by the reminder that the dirt in which the Holy Spirit seeks to grow fruit is the church. This family of faith that was living through seemingly continual change was the very place that the Holy Spirit was “nurturing and bringing forth fruit” (55).
Eighteen months after Rob preached this message, our church celebrated twenty years of ministry in Mississauga. In our anniversary celebration, we went back to our founding passage in Isaiah 61, where we were reminded that God declared that we would be called “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD” (v. 3). To help us understand what this meant, I concluded my anniversary message by reminding our church family of the words Rob had shared with us in this sermon. The history of Clarkson Village is one of strawberries. In 1915, a sign declared that more strawberries passed through our train station than any other station in Ontario. One hundred years later our village is built up with homes and stores and industry. Yet, in Rob’s own words, “amid this concrete wasteland, God is cultivating a garden plot by the lake . . . Our God is a gardener and his Spirit is cultivating something beautiful amid the rubble of a world that has lost its way” (56).
At Chartwell Baptist Church in Clarkson Village, we are people who remember the value of dirt. We are the people who have been planted in this place and we are allowing God to reveal the image of Jesus in us. Having recently become the Lead Pastor of our church, Rob’s sermon remains in my mind as I look out the office window to our growing oak tree, which was planted on our twentieth anniversary. Rob reminds me again and again that to be a pastor is to care for the dirt, in order that the Spirit of God might bring forth fruit.
Jamie Bay is Lead Pastor of Chartwell Baptist Church in Clarkson Village in Mississauga, Ontario.