Further Thoughts on Kudzu

Mark 4:26-34

I think that many of you know that, though I really embrace the idea of verdant gardens and my heart resonates with a healthy understanding of a theology that sees humanity’s role as a steward of creation, I have a black thumb.

I kill everything I plant.

And not without much effort to save stuff. And that’s a shame because I think I’ve got to turn in my southerner card for at least a corner being turned down if I can’t grow a decent tomato….and I only say that half-jokingly. I’m a little bit jealous of people who can grow there own food. There’s something wonderful to be able to nurture something and see it grow into something beautiful and delicious. Something that can nourish others and bring life.

Now, I’ve had the odd vegetable volunteer in the back yard of a parsonage—squash, kale, and mint (my Lord, the mint!). I’ve enjoyed the work of others and I’ve enjoyed the wind blowing seed where it will. But that is something different. And that’s actually a good way to dovetail into today’s Scripture.

What is the Reign of God like?

“The kingdom of God is as if someone would sit in their hammock looking at their garden wondering how to grow a garden. The gardener would would read many Facebook posts and blog articles on gardening—between naps of course— and one day the gardener stirs from a nap to see a lush, verdant garden. And he does not know how it happened. ‘The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a cutting of kudzu, which, when planted to control erosion, seems innocuous; but years later it is everywhere and no human endeavor can seem to get rid of it.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Years ago, when a student at Candler, I heard Steve Kraftchick deliver a sermon in Cannon Chapel. I cannot tell you anything about the sermon—the text, the claim, or what he wanted us to do once we heard it. But I do remember this: he had this image he used where he used Kudzu as a metaphor. He went into extreme detail about how it was imported as to this country as an ornamental but was soon adopted for erosion control because of its rapid growth rate. 100 years later—its everywhere. Its almost as if you could see it grow. And that image stuck in my head—especially the closing part about when he got up from his backyard session of pondered kudzu, he unwrapped the vine that had grown around his leg while sitting there before getting up.

I think what made it stick is that there’s something persistent, continual, unavoidable about kudzu—especially here in the south. I can remember driving down the road one day, my grandmother pointing to the side of the road, “see that house? That’s where your great-grandfather’s roadside store was.” I looked over to the side of the road, and all I saw was the huge, green hill of kudzu. Apparently, there was a building—a shed, really—underneath that mound. The vines had overgrown the building, leaving most who drove by unaware of what was there before.

God’s Kingdom is everywhere. This is the promise of Pentecost, that God’s Spirit permeates all aspects of life, seeding the potential for God’s Reign to exist anywhere and everywhere. I think that part of our job as faithful disciples, then is to point out the places where God’s Reign is moving and growing—where God’s Spirit is active. It’s not like we, the church, are the one’s who invite God to begin acting and moving in a place. How arrogant! But let’s not kid ourselves, it’s also arrogant to say, “I want to start something new and then ask God to bless it.” The question we should be asking is this: “Since God is already acting, already moving in the lives of people in this community, what can we do—what new thing can we do—that would help people become aware of God’s amazing activity in their lives.

Its almost as if our job is to point at peoples ankles, let them see that no, that’s not kudzu that’s wrapped around their ankle, threatening to hold them back. No that’s the amazing God of all Creation that loves you and so desperately wants to not just be a nudging, tugging thought in the back of our minds, but desires to embrace and being an active part of our lives—growing, alive, ever changing.

Now I’d much rather be part of that, wouldn’t you? I’ve planted before, I’ve sown before. I’ve dug up weeds in order the make compost. I’ve even busted up rock, trying to clear space for good soil to exist. But, I think I’m ready for something to spring up. I think I feel the weight of that vine beginning to wrap around my leg signaling that new life is near and inviting me to look around. There’s nothing to be excised, nothing to be cut back. No, its something to be embraced. Something to let run and see what happens next… to let God’s Spirit run where it will while we do our best to nurture and help it grow into something beautiful, something life-giving.

I’m ready.

How about you?