Tuesday, July 3

Tomato cages are awesome -- in their own way

Sometimes, if the plant is growing well, even
the tomato cage, needs a little additional support.
Like many other Americans I grow tomatoes. So, I have a lot of tomato cages sitting around. Some of them are small -- some fairly large. Some are heavy duty and some quite flimsy. Some are square and some are round. Some snap together for flexibility and others are unbendable. This spring I even bought three cages that had been painted lime green. I could have chosen red, yellow, or purple. But lime green is my favorite color.

Frankly, though, the color or the style of cage doesn’t really matter. A fancier tomato cage will not produce better or sweeter tomatoes. The tomato cage performs one important but auxiliary function. It supports the growth of the tomato plants.

For most garden varieties if you don’t provide an external skeleton for the plant the weight of the growth -- and the fruit itself -- will pull the plant toward the ground where the fruit will sit in the mud and rot or otherwise become unharvestable. So, the cage is important.

But the cage itself is not the point. Unless you buy bright lime green tomato cages they are not the focus. They are simply there to facilitate the growth and save the fruit.

Sometimes, if you plant the tomatoes close enough to each other they’ll vine over several cages and apart from the differences in the fruit it will be hard to differentiate one plant from another. And that’s okay. The cages are not really competing with each other.

In my non-gardening work I often get to hear people rail about the evils of church denominations -- how "unbiblical" they are -- or how "un-Christlike" they are -- or how "useless" they are. But I’ve begun to explain that denominations are like tomato cages. There is nothing wrong with using tomato cages -- and you’re actually wise to do so. But tending tomato cages isn’t the point of gardening. Yes, they occasionally require some maintenance themselves. And sometimes I discard broken and malformed tomato cages after the harvest. And that’s okay because it’s not about the cages anyway. It’s about the bush growing inside and through them.

Denominations, when we understand their role, are extremely helpful. They don’t all look alike and they’re not all the same size. But that’s not the point anyway. Their mission is to support the growth and the fruit of the healthy church that is forming in the middle.

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