Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tree of Life #5 - Grafted by God (Fifth Sunday in Lent)

We had some fun (and welcomed some new members) today.  Here's the sermon.  During it, I played Cindy and Paul's parts.  Members of the congregation were the "callers."  And they did a great job! 

Scripture:  Rom. 11:16b-20  and Isaiah 56:3-7

Welcome to Illinois Gardener.  This is the place where, every week, between pledge breaks, we answer your questions about gardening.  Soil, plant selection, pest control, and fertilizer . . . we run the gardening gamut. 

Today’s topic:  Grafting.  Our special guest is the Apostle Paul, who got his horticulture degree from the University of Damascus, and has a thriving church planting career throughout the ancient near East. 

Perhaps you’d like to start us off, Paul with a bit of background about grafting.

Thank you, Cindy.

Grafting is a propagation method where the tissue of two plants are fused together. The bottom part of the plant that contributes roots and support is called the rootstock. The upper part contributing leaves, flowers, fruits and stems, is called the scion.  

Grafting has a long history.  There are written records as well as pictures from ancient Egypt and Greece which suggest that gardeners have been employing grafting in orchards and gardens for over 3000 years.   It is an ancient practice, and one that many gardeners in all parts of the world still find essential to their practice.

Cindy -  Some crop scientists believe that increased use of grafting could provide one of the keys to more sustainable food production in many areas of the world that do not have the luxury of soil and climate that we enjoy in Central Illinois. 
Did you know that in Japan almost 95 % of the watermelons, oriental melons, greenhouse cucumbers, tomato and eggplant crops are grafted before being transplanted to the field or greenhouse?
Well, it makes sense, because in many areas of Japan, there is a sustained wet and rainy part of the growing season.  Tomatoes don’t like having wet feet, and are susceptible to root rot and stem collapse.  But if the tomato top is grafted onto an eggplant rootstock - the problem is solved, because eggplant roots can withstand even several days of being submerged in water. 

Interesting, eh? 

Paul:  Interesting. Yes.  I myself am not an expert on vegetable grafting.  I am more of a tree man, myself.  Grafting of trees is what I know a little about.  Olive trees.
I believe we have a caller on line #1.  Go ahead, caller.

#1:  This show is called Illinois Gardener.  So my question is, “Is grafting ever used in Illinois gardens?”

Cindy:  Why yes!  If you have any roses in your garden, and many Illinois gardeners do, it is very likely that you have a grafted plant in your garden.  Most roses are grafted.  The ornamental, flowering part of the plant is most likely grafted onto a root stock that has been proven hardy for our climate extremes.

And many orchards, especially apple orchards, employ grafting.  In commercial applications especially, the branches of a desired variety of apple is grafted onto rootstock of dwarf or semi dwarf trees.  This allows trees to be planted more closely, increasing the amount of fruit per acre of land.  It also means that the fruit is lower to the ground, easier to harvest, and substantially reduces the risk of injuries to workers during harvest.  

Paul:  Yes, grafting has advantages in every climate and many types of agriculture.  And, I might add, understanding the process of grafting can have important spiritual implications, especially for non-Jewish members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Cindy:  Really?  Why, most Illinois Gardeners ARE non-Jewish Christians.

Paul:   Yes.  In my day we called you “Gentiles”.  Peoples.    As opposed to “The Chosen People”.  Nations, as opposed to THE Nation of Israel.  The same root - Gen - is found in English words like “gen-eology”  (The study of one’s ancestry, which is good) and “gen-ocide”  (the killing of a people, which is, of course, very bad).

And how does this relate to grafting, again, please, Paul?

Paul:  Well, Christians who are not Jews become connected to God through a grafting process. I see we have another caller. 

Caller #2:   Getting back to gardening, Could you describe the steps involved in grafting?

Cindy:  Well, the first thing it’s important to know is that grafting takes a very sharp and clean knife.  Cutting is the first step in grafting and growing a stronger, more productive plant. 

Paul:  I always emphasized that Christian conversion is analogous to cutting.  The new life in Christ is exactly that - a new life.  The person who converts is given a fresh start in Christ.  The old life, with all its entanglements and limitations, is gone.  A new life has begun.  It is a radical new beginning.  

Cindy:  Caller on line #3. 

Caller #3:  Does that mean that the scion, the branch, is entirely new species? 

Cindy:  I think I can answer that, Paul.  The answer is no.  The branch that is cut still retains its own characteristics.  A Jonathan branch joined to an Red Delicious tree will not begin producing Red Delicious apples.  Grafting doesn’t destroy the basic attributes of the branch. 

Paul:  That’s right.  You are who you are.  Before and after Christ.  Grafting isn’t a personality transplant.  I, for instance, tended to be quick tempered, quick witted and adventurous before my sudden conversion.  And I was a quick tempered, quick witted and adventurous Christian after conversion, too.  But, in a good graft, the branch does become part of something entirely new.  It grows differently after the graft.  It’s shape and direction and fruitfulness are determined by its new root. 
I see we have another caller. Line #4?

Caller #4:  How is the grafted branch joined to the new rootstock? 

Cindy:  There are several different techniques.  What is important is that the join be done in such a way that the growing parts of both the scion and the stock plant come in contact with one another, so that the tissues can fuse with one another and the nutrients can flow from one to the other. 

Paul:  In the orchard, the gardener uses great care in grafting on new branches.  He or she (Please note that I've become a little more inclusive in the past few years) lines up the parts carefully and then reinforces the graft with grafting wax which keeps out rain and pathogens until the graft has a chance to establish itself. 
Theologically, God is the gardener.  This is God’s work.  But I like to think that the church can go a long way in helping the gardener out by paying attention to the graft points, reinforcing them, especially at first, until they have a chance to get established.  Providing the right conditions for the graft to “take”.  

Cindy:  And how do you suggest that churches do that? 

Paul:  Well, one way is by paying attention to the little shoots that are growing up in the church.   Christian education for young people, grounding them in the stories of the faith is vital.    And you have to pay attention to new members, too.  Greet them.  Learn their names, and more than their names.  Pray for them. 
You know, in commercial horticulture operations, new grafts are often put in screen houses where humidity is high and conditions are perfect.  A whole bunch of plants at the same stage of growth is something to see.  Big churches can sometimes do something like that with their Sunday Schools, or New Member Incubators.   It’s efficient for big operations.  
A small scale gardener can’t do the same as a big commercial grower.   But he or she can get the same great results in grafting by carefully misting the individual plants just right.  Small churches have to do that, too.  Mind each little sprout and each new member and provide individual care.  I like to think of prayer and care as the “mist” of smaller churches. 

I think we have time for one more caller.   Line #5

Caller #5:  If you had to say what was the most important thing to know about grafting, what would it be?

Paul:  I’ll take this one.  The most important part of grafting is the root.  As I’ve said in other places, “If the root is holy, so are the branches.  Remember that it is not the branch that supports the roots, but the root that supports the branches. So do not be proud, but stand in awe.” that God has grafted you into God’s own life through the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ is the source of our fruitfulness, our beauty, our very life.  Jesus said, “I am the vine.  You are the branches.”   And our new life, abiding in Him, being part of His life now and eternally, is accomplished by the sacrifice that He made in dying for love of us.  The wounds of the cross provide the places for us to be joined with him and rooted in God’s love forever.   And when we are joined with him, grafted into him through faith, we share in that life and that love forevermore.  So do not be proud, but stand in awe.  We are grafted into the Tree of Life.

Cindy:  And that’s all the time we have on this segment of Illinois Gardener.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is the best thing I have read in quite some time. I thought I was having a somewhat original ideal come into reality and I did a search to see if it truly was original which brought me here. Thank You.