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Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

623-334-8014Gardening and Worship


I am going to send out our bulletin with hymns and sermon titles to the whole list now. You can ignore it if you choose. We have quite a few isolated people worshiping at home or in small groups. Also, some pastors may wish to have a hymn list and sermon title early, in case they want to use some selections.


I know that my high church friends will point out errors right away. For instance, I should have made the pre-Lenten Sundays a priority over Epiphany Sundays. Two pastors were excessively eager to mention that to me! Actually, I appreciate that, because I have seen the results of reducing the whole service to whatever feels good at the moment. That tendency tends to run with Reformed doctrine, Pietism, and Church Growth.


Many worship traditions began with Judaism. If you happen to attend a Jewish service, especially an important one, such as a Bar Mitzvah, you will notice appointed readings, chanting, and liturgical gestures. The one that startled me was all the men hopping three times when they said “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Hebrew.


A Reformed service eliminates almost everything. Calvinist worship is described as a sermon surrounded by four white walls. Very plain, very vanilla. The Pentecostals try to spice it up with a lot of emotion, but their efforts fail to do anything else than to emphasize man and his feelings. Christianity Today, a magazine seldom worth quoting or opening, made the point that the Lutheran liturgical service glorifies God’s grace more than any other type of worship. Amen.


Some priorities in Lutheran worship: hymn selection favors the great Lutheran writers; the sermon is well prepared and based upon insights from Luther, the Book of Concord, Lenksi, Kretzmann, and personal study; the bulletin is an educational tract full of orthodox Lutheran material and, from time to time, examples of false doctrine to avoid; the sacraments are emphasized; confession and absolution are prominent; artwork is dignified and reflects the Scripture rather than a synodical advertizing campaign.



The non-desert dwellers, most of you, get to read the gardening news months in advance. I spent yesterday planting roses, dill, sunflowers, beans, radishes, scarlet runner beans, and borage.

Time to order bare root roses, if you have not. Some favorites to look for: Mr. Lincoln (big, red, perfume); Tropicana (day-glo, best cut rose for lasting qualities, small bush); Olympiad (pure red, never darkens, too beautiful to believe); Queen Elizabeth (Lutheran, grandiflora, large growing habit, perfect salmon pink blossoms); Fragrant Cloud (darker pink, some call it brick, heavy perfume, generous blooms); Peace (great foliage, no perfume, large but infrequent yellow blooms tinged with madder); Don Juan (climber producing hybrid tea style blooms, red); Double Delight (perfume, bi-color, wildly popular with women).


Get serious about mulch. Most of you think gardening is tough because weeds take over in dry weather. This is the weed capital of the world. We even have summer weeds and winter weeds. The answer for most questions is: mulch, mulch, and more mulch.


Note how I planted an entire bed. My super-abs workout. Digging is great for the abs, unless you eat a lot of ice cream bars during breaks. It is on the west side of the house, an area needing a lot of shade later. First I dug out one good plant and put it in another place to bloom. It had been roasted all last summer. The block wall cooked whatever was not fried in the desert sun.


So I wetted down the soil and had lunch, to let the clay soil soften up a little. Then I dug up the area, leaving the weeds cut up but in the soil. Why? Weed seeds are there anyway. A few more million won’t change things, especially with mulch. Then I softened up the whole area by digging it. Not too thorough. It’s easy to go down 3 feet at first and then skim .003 inch later. I wanted enough to give the seeds a soft bed in which to take root.


So the whole area was softened. Then I scattered seed from the following packets: mammoth sunflower, hollyhock, borage, dill, radish, beans. The hollyhocks and sunflowers will soak in the sun and grow tall. Dill is fairly tall. It is my favorite weed. When in doubt, plant dill. It can be pulled out when it is in the way. Otherwise it is a great plant to enjoy. The seeds are delicious with tomato. Dill weed can be used in salads and cooking. It seeds itself forever in the yard. The sunflowers are for shade and birdfood. Borage is a salad herb, a great reseeder, cute blue and pink flowers said to make people feel better (like St. John’s Wort). Borage grows fairly low. Radish seeds are self-esteem plants. I usually buy about 5,000 and use them to mark where I have planted more useful veggies. They grow fast, 28 days, so I can say, “Aha, they are growing.” Besides, all plants, yes even weeds, improve the soil and feed earthworms with their roots and dead leaves. I put in Kentucky Wonder bush beans because Chris likes raw beans. All legumes add fixed nitrogen to the soil. A large packet of beans will serve well in many ways.


Let’s say you plant 5,000 beans and harvest only a few bushels of them. The rest of the crop will end up feeding the soil. It can be tilled under, for those who like to osterize their soil. Or left to die into the soil. Or eaten. This is called a green manure crop, because the green plants in dying will serve as manure, smelling better, reducing the need to haul. Manure is not a bad word. It means “to work by hand” and formerly referred to several types of manual labor on the farm.

Back to the mulch concept. After I planted the entire area and soaked it with a gentle spray from the garden hose, I covered everything with old pine needles. Then I soaked the mulch. Some of you will say “Whoa!” That mulch will slow down germination, blocking the sun.” It may slow things down a few minutes, but there is plenty of gain. The plants will emerge from the mulch, collared perfectly by mulch.


Weed seeds love bare soil and lots of sunlight. Mulching the newly planted bed defeats weeds to a great extent. Sure, I really can’t tell what is coming up at first, because I don’t line up plants like soldiers on the tarmac. But the weeds will emerge in time, turn ugly on me, and get rooted up. They love to spread out in bare soil, so they emerge on the weed side, shy, suffering from low self-esteem. I pull them up faster than you can say “Ruth Stout” and lay them on top, to shame all other weeds. They dry up and add to the mulch and join in feeding soil creatures, earthworms above all.



1.     Conserves water.

2.     Shades the soil, a situation favored by most plants, except weeds.

3.     Serves as a prophylaxis against weeds.

4.     Feeds the soil by rotting into the earth.

5.     Creates an army of soil creatures to be eaten by birds.

6.     In feeding birds, serves as the payroll for an army of bug-eaters.

7.     Prevents wind erosion, since the wind carries away the best soil.

8.     Shades earthworms and all soil creatures, who love darkness and moisture.


Is all this God’s design or pure chance?


Genesis 1, in fact, the entire Bible teaches us that God created by the Word, through Christ. He created with a purpose, and we can see that purpose whenever we garden.