Somewhat shy, perhaps a little frightened, a dozen children huddled with their teacher at the back of a full sanctuary. They had just returned from the church yard where they had been working in God’s Garden. They stood quietly (as carefully instructed) tentatively scanning the crowd to locate their parents. One little boy, perhaps 6, suddenly broke from the group and darted down to the front of the center aisle. At the end of his parents’ row, he screeched to a halt, triumphantly held a zip lock baggie high in the air and face beaming, shouted, yes shouted, “We got beans!”

A few years back, a retired elementary teacher built a raised “God’s Garden” outside our church building. She dreamt of little ones being active and learning while their parents sat in Sunday worship. Children started in worship with their families, heard a kids’ message and then went out to work in the soil. There they learned about the loving Creator and the beloved creation. As the weeks of summer went along, hopeful, expectant, they prepared the soil, planted the seeds, watered and weeded. And finally, on this Sunday, it was time for the harvest.

In his delight, our little friend shouted, “We got beans!” The sanctuary filled with laughter as all the other children moved to find family and place. He wasn’t excited about ice cream, candy or pop. He held no expensive toy or gadget. That little guy maybe didn’t even know beans are good for us. He maybe didn’t remember beans are not his favorite vegetable. Somehow a little seed, some dirt, water and sunshine had put into his hands something to feel good about. Something he was a part of. Something to feed his family. No matter how dark the world might have been that day, he was glad to have beans.

At our house, despite having many reasons not to bother, we faithfully plant a small garden every year. There are many obstacles to success. Sandy soil. o cow manure. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, mice, birds -- everybody is looking for something to eat. Weeds, bugs, slugs, hornets -- you know the challenges.

So, this year, our harvest was six apples, three cucumbers, and beans, lots and lots of beans. The beans always seem to thrive. And we gathered, perhaps a basket full -- potatoes, peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and two tiny pumpkins -- only a small taste from each of the rest. But enough beans to can! Beans are not my favorite vegetable. The Honeycrisp apples, from a young tree, and the cucumbers were amazing. Everything else gone, we will still be eating beans through the winter. Year after year, we have gotten mixed results. Yet each spring we plant again, seeds of hopefulness.

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This was a bad summer for our world, 2020. Drought. Fires. Hurricanes. Flooding. Pandemic. Lock-down. Unemployment. Homelessness. Racism. Lies. Dishonor. Fear-mongering. Hatred. Violence. Armed vigilantes. Fighting over masks meant to keep people safe. No respect. Anything goes. One might consider giving up.

After kids returned to sanctuary and families, beans safely tucked away, we all gathered around The Lord’s Table and had some bread and wine. Fruits of the creation from the Creator. Can seeds of hope and life-giving community still be planted? World far from perfect, very much broken, fearful -- is it worth trying to see if, together, we can still grow some beans? Something to feel good about. Something to be a part of. Something to sustain our family, our world?

We have threatening men carrying assault rifles, long lines at unemployment centers and food shelves, rampant racism and injustice, raging pandemic -- terrible harvest. But we still have the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We can still vote. Speak our piece. Talk with our neighbors. Pray. And work together for the good of all. We have in our hands something to feel good about. Something we are a part of. Something we can use to feed our families. The little boy showed us. We got beans.

Darrell J. Pedersen, Baxter, is retired as a pastor from First Lutheran Church in Aitkin