My favorite poem is written by Mary Oliver who is a contemporary poet who lived most of her life in New England and wrote somewhat simple poems about her observations of the nature near her home. I love that her writing is both endearingly specific to the pond and woods around her home and yet has resonances for people with Many life experiences with nature. In my favorite poem,
“The Gardener” Mary Oliver writes about life’s big questions:

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough,
have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?
I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.
Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.

The big questions Mary Oliver poses in her poems sound a lot like the questions I ask myself and I ask of God. How am I to live and love and act? How do I respond to the ups and downs of life? When I get into this place of questioning I want there to be a clear and right answer—but rarely does life offer clear answers to our questions.
Like Mary Oliver when I’m consumed with my worries, it can take something as simple as entering a garden or wooded area or watching the birds to remind me of what really matters in life. And it even goes beyond nature. As I enter the final weeks of my internship time at Vinje I’m reminded of the simple moments I had in your community when you welcomed me, comforted me, and shaped me. I cherish the time shared in the fellowship hall, conversations in your living rooms and the sanctuary pews, and beautiful invitations to join you all on your faith journeys. I’m honored by the opportunity to learn and grow in your community and am thankful for the many ways I was invited into the big questions and the simple moments with so many of you this past year.
I’ve always read the gardener figure in this poem as a metaphor, or stand in, for God. A God who is simple and nurturing. Who doesn’t get caught up in the big questions in life but focuses on being fully present to those who depend on God. I find a lot of comfort in seeing God in this parental way: watering, pruning, and encouraging growth. As we continue our summer sermon series “Grow with God” I’m excited to hear how God the Gardener has shown up in your lives.
-Vicar Hope