Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
As I mentioned before, I enjoy gardening. It is not because I expect to get much harvest, but because it helps refresh my mind and purifies my soul. In addition, it gives me the wisdom of the mystery of life and the wisdom of pastoral ministry. I can say, ‘it is a means of my meditation,’ which I do, watering my garden every morning.
This spring, I was excited to start my gardening because I have a larger spot for my garden than last year. I planned to make a spot for flowering plants, which I couldn’t last year. I have shared with some of our parishioners that this year I would have an area for flowering plants. Some of them gave me their flowering plants, and some of them gave me flowering plant seeds. I planted the seeds and replanted the flowering plants in a new spot. Finally, I have a garden with flowering plants. The seeds sprouted and are growing well, and the flowering plants are growing. Of course, my vegetable garden is looking great as well. With the knowledge I got last year, I made fences to protect my garden from wild animals. As they grow, I notice that wild weeds grow also. I pulled the weeds off carefully from among my veggies as often as I can. All things looked like they were going well, and I felt happy with my garden.
However, I am getting anxious because recently I discovered my plants began to disappear one by one without a trace. I suspected somehow it involved wild animals. I made a double fence with nets, but those were useless. I heard from one of our parishioners that a “liquid fence” is very helpful in protecting the garden. I bought it and used it in my garden. But, it also didn’t work. I was deeply disappointed. Furthermore, I felt depressed. I’m not happy with my garden, but I am afraid of the loss of my plants. Every morning, I count my plants to see if they all are fine. I am afraid to count them or to go to my garden to see if they are fine. It is painful to see the loss of my plants and vegetables. I felt that it can only go so far. That is all I can do for my garden. I have limited options. I know that it’s not my fault. However, what can I do? Do I have to give up my garden?
In Today’s scripture, we may see two main people: King Herod and John the Baptist. Through them, we learn human limitations and imperfection. King Herod was a person who had the best authority in the political field, and John the Baptist was a person who had the best authority in the spiritual field. It was the time that Jesus’ name was spreading out to the people. King Herod heard about Jesus as well: Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and for this reason, these powers are at work in him.” Others said, “He is Elijah,” whom Jewish believed as the great prophet. And, others said, “He is a prophet like one of the old prophets.” But, King Herod believed that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead because he killed John the Baptist and was afraid of killing the righteous person.
Verses 17 through 29 tell us a story, which he recalled. King Herod was a person who had the best authority, but he couldn’t protect John the Baptist as he wanted. He knew it was a sin to marry his brother’s wife, but he married her in his authority. No one went against him except John the Baptist. John the Baptist went against King Herod, saying directly, “It is a sin.” However, King Herod couldn’t kill him because he knew John the Baptist was a righteous spiritual man. Nevertheless, King Herod had to arrest him and threw him in prison for his authority. One day, when the King had his birthday party with many people, his daughter danced and made him happy. He swore to his daughter that whatever she asked him, he would give her. His daughter asked him for the head of John the Baptist, as her mother advised. Finally, King Herod would kill him to keep his oath to his daughter. However, it kept him in fear for a long time. That’s why when he heard about Jesus, it reminded him of his sins in marrying his brother’s wife and killing John the Baptist. Even though he was the King who had the most authority, he couldn’t protect John. Furthermore, he couldn’t handle his distress of a guilty consciousness. It was his limitation, which he couldn’t handle even with the King’s authority. If you were the King, what would you have done? Would you kill Jesus to avoid the fear or cover the sin?
The other person is John the Baptist. As you may know, John the Baptist was a person who prepared for the way of Jesus through baptizing people and preaching the kingdom of God. His ministry was for about one year. Even though he did his great ministry, his death was terrible. Compared with his amazing authority, the period of his ministry was very short. He was the first witness who noticed that Jesus was the Messiah, “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). He was the person who dared to baptize Jesus. However, his death was horrible. We don’t know why the righteous people died in a horrible way, but God knows. We don’t know about many things that happened in the world. We don’t know why it happens to me, why it happen to my family, and why it happens to my friends. We don’t understand how God works in these situations, but we trust God.
A Buddhist monk says, “As much as you have possessions, you have worries.” He might be right. My garden is my possession, as are my family, and my friends. As much as it makes me happy, it gives me worry also. However, even if my family and friends give me worry, I cannot give up my family or friends. I am upset and discouraged by my garden. No, actually, I’m upset by the unknown wild animals. So, the things that give me disappointment are not my garden but what is destroying my garden. I decided to give God time to work on my garden while I keep doing my part. I don’t understand that situation, but I trust God. God knows everything because God is the Creator of all things.
Please, try to count how blessed you are instead of counting the things that made you angry or gave you anxiety. The things or the people that give you worry are actually the sources that give you happiness. Those perhaps might be motivations to give you energy or revitalize your life. We have concern or worry not because we don’t have the authority, or we did something wrong, but because we are blessed through them. Evil things might come to our minds like cursing, blaming, or giving up. In other words, all our concerns, such as our family issues, broken relationships, and bad medical reports, might hide our eyes from seeing our blessings, which is on the other side of our life. We cannot handle all our concerns, but God knows about your worries. God knows how to switch bitter water to sweet water because God works in an extraordinary way. God knows how to bring us from desert to green pasture because God is our good shepherd. We don’t understand how God works, but we can trust God. Let us give God time to work on it! Thanks be to God. Amen!