I’ll start with my confession of the week. After almost a year of living in Costa Rica, I walked into my local Starbucks and ordered a grande Caramel Macchiato in English. My whole conversation with the barista was in English. He didn’t even bat an eye. I had a broad, internal grin at my secret.
It was a longing for the easy and familiar.
A longing most of us have likely had over the past six months.
As I began to make breakfast this past Sunday, I flipped on the live steam from one of our home churches in Pennsylvania. A guest worship leader was speaking.
It flooded me with peace about the world today and simultaneously made me overflowingly grateful at God’s generosity in giving us this season.
I kid you not, it really did.
What exactly did this Jason Upton character say? I’ll tell you. (I’m quoting his words for the remainder of this Fertilizer.)
God is renewing the face of the ground.
He was quoting from Psalm 104 that reads: “All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when You take away their breath, they die and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.”
Those aren’t just three distinct statements about God. It’s the way resurrection happens. During this time, I’ve been reading a lot of the poet-prophets like Wendell Berry to get a different perspective. He talks about how important it is for the soil to rest.
One of the things I’ve found during this season is how the capitalistic, empirical things that I’ve been programmed in so bound me in me. I didn’t even realize it. I can see them all over the world - the syncretism of various forms of religion when I go to Brazil, etc. but I never noticed how much I was bound by not letting the soil rest.
You think about it, guys. We just let the soil rest for six months, and we’re all freaking out. But in the eyes of a good farmer, they care more about the soil than the product.
The “empire” only cares about the product, but God cares about the soil.
Back in March, I felt like the LORD said, “Hey Jason, I want to make all things new, but before I do that, you need to know that I’m not ever returning you to ‘normal.’ My work never returns you to normal. I’m not afraid to let things go to dust. Will you let me lower you down to the place of dust, and will you trust that My resurrection power will hover over that space and make all things new again? I’m not actually returning you to normal. I’m making all things new!”
“Hey Jason. Sit down. I know you don’t want to. You don’t like sitting down. You feel like your value is ‘go, go, go, go!’ But right now, I want to rest the soil. Will you let me rest the soil? You’ve been singing about being a farmer, but do you have the guts to do the work of a real farmer? Do you have the guts to let the product go so that I can heal the soil and heal the land? ‘Cause I’m making all things new. I’m not returning you to your normal. I’m returning you to dust so that I can hover over you with My Spirit.”
Thomas Merton said, “If we only understood that every time God chooses to create, He creates a void. He makes space.”
God is creating space. We always try to fill the space. And Merton continues, “If you only understood that the Holy Spirit is about to hover over that space and create something completely new.”
I feel like God is saying, “I’m not returning you to dust so you stay there. I’m renewing the face of the ground as I make all things new.”
Walter Brueggemann taught me something over this break. He says that most of us know we’re supposed to live for the Kingdom. And most of us have one foot in the empire and one foot in the water. God wants to lead us out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, but we’re going to have to go into the wilderness. And we think we’re going to die in that wilderness because there’s so much space there. But most of us stay most of our lives (because we can afford to especially in America) with one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in the empire.
But the problem is that we never get to experience a covenantal God until we go into that space of the wilderness. Because it’s not until we get into the wilderness that water comes from a rock, that quail come in and we have meat to eat. We long to have our feet in the empire and experience the God of covenant at the same time, and it just doesn’t work that way.
These moments are moments of LIFE. And we can GROW and LEARN. And maybe sometimes we have to be forced into that space to see God spring water out of a rock, give us our daily bread.
Then Jason sang this song:
Father, make us ready for all our hands have sown.
We can hear it raining: This garden’s gonna grow.
Spirit, keep us steady; Seasons come and go
To never stop believing: This garden’s gonna grow
So, let our love be patient; Help us to be kind.
Teach us in the waiting; Oh, Jesus, be our guide.
Let the soil of life be watered; Let our light shine, brighter
It’ll take time, and time can move so slow.
This garden’s gonna grow. This garden’s gonna grow.
I hope that we are all ready; This garden’s gonna grow.
I hope this lights you up as it did me. To watch the full service, watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv2Lg6zgEhc The section I’m pulling from starts after 1:15:00.
And as a side note, a mutual friend told me I should get to know Jason...back in 1997. Maybe it's time. :)