Many people have been intrigued by the facebook comments on Watermelon Sunday! A few months ago, I was trying to think of something fun to do in July when churches in the Valley (not just mine!) seem to go into the doldrums in terms of programming and attendance. So I tossed around a few ideas and decided to go with a "Beat the Heat" month. First up--the Sunday immediately following Independence Day. How better to celebrate than with watermelons?
But how to incorporate them into the service? I put out a call on facebook, and many people responded with stories from their childhood as well as suggestions. Dropping the watermelon off our bell tower. Seeing how many people get scared if I eat watermelon and drink milk at the same time (apparently it has a superstitious reference). Rolling the watermelon down the center aisle.
I did get a great suggestion from Leigh Gregg to go find a bunch of different melons and then let the kids try to guess what color the inside is based on the outside of the melon. That worked so well because I was able to find Crenshaw and Canary melons (the outside of both is very yellow, but the inside of the Crenshaw is light orange like a canteloupe and the inside of the Canary is mottled green/orange), both a regular honeydew and an orange-centered honeydew (they look completely alike outside) and a regular watermelon and a yellow-meat watermelon. That last one was probably the most dramatic as it's something more familiar to the kids that they had never seen before--it was just golden yellow as I picked it up and showed it to them.
Still, what to preach? Did I want to try to incorporate the fruit?
Then I started doing some research on the watermelon. The earliest crops were actually grown in Africa over 5000 years ago. Seeds were found in the tombs of Pharoahs. And the people of Israel, while wandering in the wilderness, actually name melons as one of the things they miss about Egypt in Numbers 11:5 (when they are whining about manna).
One of the coolest things about watermelons is that they actually are an incredibly important source of water in the desert parts of Africa. In fact, some people have used them as their primary water source in dry times and cultivate them just for that purpose. And so I got to thinking about Isaiah 35:1-10 and the streams in the desert that God will bring about. This picture was a sign of hope at a time when Isaiah wasn't offering much hope. But there they were--the life returning to a place of dryness.
Now is a watermelon what I think Isaiah meant by "streams in the desert"? Nope. But I also wonder how many times we miss the streams that are provided for us to sojourn in the desert for awhile longer. Not the great stream and life overwhelming that Isaiah 35 (and Isaiah 65 and other texts of Zion) promise us, but a "foretaste" if you will. In sort of the same way communion gives us a taste of the feast to come--so watermelon will always remind me now of streams in the desert.
The second cool fact I didn't know about watermelon vines is that they require the presence of bees in order to bear fruit. They are inter-dependent. One of the lectionary texts for this day talked about Jesus sending out people 2 by 2. He was very specific in telling them everything that they couldn't take. In the end, I can almost hear the question of the disciples: "Well, Jesus, what can we take then?" And I can hear him replying: "Each other." We require the presence of God and each other so many times in order to bear fruit. We don't make it on our own very well. So we ask the question--who is on the Journey with you? Are they helping you bear fruit? Watermelon will always help me to remember that I can't go it alone if I expect to bear fruit!
Then we closed the service by serving some of the sweetest and juiciest watermelon around (I love roadside stands in the Valley!) to everyone as they left. It made me excited to see how something as common and as a part of our 4th of July celebrations might actually be able to point back to the Original Freedom Plan...and give us hope for our future.
In other news, the bread I used today was a recipe slightly modified from a Baking in America recipe attributed to Martha Washington. It was spiced with mace, nutmeg, cloves and rose water! Yummy! The original recipe used about a pound of currants, but obviously, since this is communion that would have been bad. I also added more flour (to give it less a "tea bread" feel...it still uses yeast though!) and baked it free-form instead of in a pan.
Next Sunday we're going to go for a Dip in the Pool (exploring the waters of baptism)! I love worship!
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