Andrew Watson: Growing with the garden shed gospel
As well as garden tools, the humble shed holds spiritual lessons for life as we start a new year, says the Rev Andrew Watson
SOME may find this sad but it's a fact: it is a thing of huge significance in a man's life when he gets a new shed.
He has a new HQ, not to mention a place of refuge and reflection. He is the envy of every other man in his street for here, safe among the garden tools and compost, he is the unchallenged lord of his little domain.
I recently had this experience of mellow bliss, and it occurs to me that we can also draw spiritual lessons from shed-life, as the pictures with this article help to illustrate.
Firstly, if we think of the old shed, its timber rotten and its frame ready to collapse, we have our first lesson - the limitations of a patch job.
A coat of paint can temporarily take off the bad look but it can't change the fact the shed needed a complete change.
We sometimes put a brave smile on our face and tell the world we are fine.
We do a good cover up on the outside but on the inside it is a different story.
Perhaps we have been hurt by others and are struggling with low self-esteem or the bitter reluctance to forgive.
Perhaps we feel a guilty conscience over some wrong we did and cannot forgive ourselves.
Let us not kid ourselves. A patch job will not do.
We need a profound, comprehensive change of heart. We need a complete change.
We need to replace the rotting decay with something fresh and new.
Paul writes in Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Second, if we realise that we need this change with the help of God's Spirit, then we should also understand the necessity of well-prepared ground.
There is no use in putting a fine shed on damp clay; it needs to rest on a strong, well-drained base.
The Apostle Paul may be thinking of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount when he writes in 1 Corinthians 3: "No-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Christ Jesus."
The Christ - Jesus, Son of God, Saviour, Lord - who gave his life on the cross as the all-sufficient sin offering on our behalf, and rose from death to reconcile to God and bring to heaven all who trust in him, is our rock and our anchor. He is our foundation.
We rest on him and what he has done for us, and we are secure for this life and eternity.
So a patch job won't do. But if we want to seriously rebuild our lives we are going to have to prepare the ground by trusting in Jesus Christ and then be careful to use quality materials.
The New Testament uses these pictures of farming or building to speak of Christ's followers spreading the good news and building healthy, growing church fellowships.
We gladly surrender whatever time, talents, resources we each may have to this cause but the essential material we are to use is the message itself.
Jesus speaks in Matthew 13 of the word - the 'message of the kingdom' - being like seed which must be scattered widely and generously; it is God's redeeming, transforming love and the way to newness of life through Jesus.
So Christians have a calling. They should share the truths of the Bible, particularly about Jesus, as widely as possible.
So we need more than a cover-up: we need a complete change, resting on the foundation of Jesus; we need to build with the best material, which is the word of God; and, thirdly, we need willing workers for the kingdom to spread and grow.
Matthew 9 tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion on them "because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd".
He turned to his disciples - I imagine quite possibly with tears in his eyes - and said: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
"Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
The challenge to us is whether we are willing to step forward and be counted to work in the Lord's harvest field.
As we rebuild our hearts and lives by his grace, strengthened by the promises of Scripture, are we willing to share the heart of Christ for our neighbours?
May it be so, that when our Lord returns in glory we will not be ashamed or worse, but will hear his voice saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant... come and share your master's happiness."
:: Rev Andrew Watson is minister of the Presbyterian congregations in Dunfanaghy and Carrigart in Co Donegal. He blogs at www.wordsurfers.com