I’ll never forget the night one of the kids on the block came banging on my door. It was late enough, and frantic enough, that I thought it was an emergency.
You have to see this. He dragged me down the block.
WHAT. IS. THAT? he asked, with big gleaming eyes.
That’s a firefly I said, with a smile, realizing it was his first firefly-sighting.
Why does it glow like that?
I thought for a minute. I’m not sure. I think God just felt extra wild one day and said, I think I’l make a bug whose butt glows in the dark.
God is cool the kid said, grinning from ear to ear.
One of the most beautiful things we get to do here at The Simple Way is plant gardens in the concrete jungle of North Philadelphia” and see people discover the miracle of life, and fall in love with the Creator of life.
Gardens have a special place in the human story. After all God first planted humanity in a garden in Eden. And the most redemptive act in history began in a garden in Gethsemane. And the story ends in Revelation with the image of the garden taking over the City of God, with the river of life flowing through the city center and the tree of life piercing the urban concrete.
This is our 20th year of cracking open the concrete. And every year it gets more exciting. We’ve seen our first praying mantises and monarch butterflies. Honeybees and ladybugs. This past year we saw the first cardinals we’ve ever seen in our neighborhood. We’re hoping for some yellow finches and hummingbirds soon, and we have their food out waiting on them.
It is an act of faith, and defiant hope. And it is incredible to see how resilient creation is.
It is important work. Studies show over and over that having a garden rather than a lot filled with trash reduces the trauma and stress of a neighborhood. You can literally track the science of how gardens bring health to the body and the brain.
And it’s holy work. It is hard to stay convinced that there is a beautiful Creator when everything you look at is ugly.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that there is a beautiful God when so much of what you see is ugly. It’s hard to believe in a God that is a lover of life when there is so much death and decay and abandonment.
So we talk a lot these days about practicing resurrection” by making ugly things beautiful… and turning vacant lots into gardens… and loving people back to life. As people see life, they are filled with wonder.
That’s what Easter is all about. After all, resurrection is something we get to do every day. Every day is Easter. We are resurrection people.
One of the most exciting urban farming projects in our little village here at The Simple Way is our aquaponics system. We have a solar-powered greenhouse with a fish-pond underneath it. The water from the fish below pumps up and nourishes the plants, which grow without soil. It’s a great way to produce food when you donate have a lot of good soil. Stuff grows like it’s on steroids, because the plants get food and water all day and night. And we now have fish that we’ve raised as babies that are bigger than your hand.
We’ve been able to harvest piles of kale, swiss chard, lavender, and beets from the aquaponics system and share them with neighbors and folks living on the street. Kids are awestruck as they pull carrots out of the pebble-filled raised beds. It is all quite magical.
I had an enthusiastic neighbor articulate some of the best theology I’ve ever heard. As I delivered a bunch of greens to her, she said, You know what we are doing? She went on. We are bringing the Garden of Eden to North Philadelphia.
And that is exactly what we are doing. With your support and your prayers, we are bringing the Garden of Eden to North Philadelphia. Thank you.