FROM DISCARDS TO BOUQUETS
2 CORINTHIANS 5.17
DECEMBER 9, 2007
WESLEY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
2 Corinthians 5.17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The Manteca church, where I was pastor for seven years, has a rose garden. Not only do roses line the sidewalk from the street to the front door of the sanctuary, but there is also a rose garden along the side of the education building. For some time the rose garden did not do well. The blossoms were small. Some of the roses did not bud. Some of the buds did not blossom. Rosarians tell us that one of the mysteries in raising roses is the riddle of why some buds never get beyond the budding stage. A promising bud appears on the stem but never opens. One of the mysteries of human life is why some lives never unfold beyond the budding stage.
The roses did not do well in the Manteca garden as long as they were tended haphazardly by the custodian or whoever happened by. Then the retired pastor who was part of our congregation volunteered to be the rose gardener. At least three times a week, Frank came and tenderly cared for the roses. He watered them, fertilized them, sprayed them for aphids, and pruned them. I don't know if he talked to them, but you could tell that he loved them. Then the rose garden came to life. Suddenly we had gorgeous, large rose blossoms of red, pink, white and all shades in between. When a baby was born, a rose from the church garden was placed on the altar for the Sunday service and given to the new baby and family.
It takes a gardener who commits his/her energy, devotion, knowledge and time to get beautiful roses. How fortunate we are to have a gardener named Jesus who takes a barren life, prepares the soil, creates a peaceful place, nurtures, prunes, waters, loves us. Then the grace of God grows that blissful flower. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
In Manteca the annual Garden Club Flower Show was held in the church's Fellowship Hall. One year while I was there, someone went through the waste baskets, gathered up discarded flowers from the individual exhibits, arranged them in a bouquet and won FIRST PLACE! “The last shall be first.” From discards to bouquets. Jesus gathers up the leftovers, the discards, and makes beautiful bouquets. God can take people who feel barren, who feel like misfits, unnoticed by others, people with low self-images—low self esteem, and make prize-winning bouquets.
Sparky was a loser. School was all but impossible for him. He failed every subject in the 8th grade. Every subject! He flunked physics in high school. In fact, he distinguished himself as the worst physics student in the school's history. He also flunked Latin, algebra, and English. He didn't do much better in sports. Although he managed to make the school's golf team, he promptly lost the only important match of the year. Then there was a consolation match, and Sparky lost that also. Throughout his youth, Sparky was awkward socially. He was not disliked by his classmates; he was just not noticed. He was astonished if a classmate ever said “hello.” In high school Sparky did not date. He was too afraid of being turned down.
Sparky's one talent was art. Of course, no one else appreciated his work. In his senior year, he submitted some cartoons to the editors of his class yearbook. His cartoons were rejected. But, Sparky persevered and decided to be a professional artist. He even wrote a letter to Walt Disney Studios. They sent him an application. Sparky spent a great deal of time preparing cartoons to send to Disney. He mailed his drawings and waited, and waited. One day the reply came—he did not get the job.
Do you know what Sparky the loser did? He wrote his autobiography in cartoons. He described his childhood self—the little boy loser, the underachiever—in a cartoon character the whole world now knows. For the boy who failed the entire 8th grade, the young artist whose work was rejected not only by Walt Disney Studios but by his own high school year book, was Charles Schulz creator of “Peanuts”, and the unforgettable character, Charlie Brown.
His hometown, St. Paul, Minnesota, has erected statues of the comic strip characters throughout the downtown area. His adopted home, Santa Rosa, CA, where he and his children lived, has also immortalized their town hero with statues and a museum in his honor.
Charles Schulz had a deep faith in God, for his comic strip preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ: how God makes winners out of losers, how God grows roses in barren lives, how God creates prize-winning bouquets out of discards.
“In Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Will you ask Jesus, will you let Jesus take your life and make a beautiful bouquet?