I Think God Believes in Cross Pollinating

by Christine Sine
red zebra tomato

red zebra tomato

A couple of days ago I read an article in the Seed Saver catalogue about the development of the Red Zebra tomato. In 1992, the developer, jeff Dawson noticed that one pant in his row of Green Zebra tomatoes had different colouring. He recognized something new had emerged and saved the seed from that one plant. Planting it out the following year produced amazing results. At least five distinctly different tomates appeared. One became the red and yellow striped red zebra, another a larger striper slicer called Copia and a third green with no stripes became Marz green. A fourth tomato with yellow and green stripes became Lemonhead.

Seed from these varieties was saved and Jeff worked to stabilize the varieties over the next 3-5 years. Some threw off even more unique and distinct varieties. What really impacted me was Jeff’s comment

It is so fascinating to see how one simple act of cross pollination in a garden and a gardener who is paying attention can produce a whole new family of tomato varieties.

Cross pollination, inbuilt in God’s plan for diversity. It produces an ever changing array of varieties of all kinds of fruit, vegetables and flowers. It encourages varieties that can adapt to a range of habitats a fruit may never have existed in before. Sometimes, as in the rich array of potatoes that thrive in South America,  it produces a variety that will only grow effectively in a few fields.

Shane Claiborne tells me Mustard Seed Associates is one of the best cross pollinating organizations he knows so as you can imagine this article really caught my attention. Cross pollination is extremely important in the church too. We learn from Christians of other traditions and sometimes our collaboration produces new expressions of church and faith that looks very different from the parent church or organization.

Unfortunately, we are not always good gardeners. We don’t always even notice the one plant in the congregation that is uniquely different from the rest. And if we do we often don’t nurture that new expression until it stabilizes and produces fruit that stays true. We are more likely to cut it down, or try to force it to produce fruit like all the other plants. 

The garden teaches me that God is a God of rich diversity, diversity that is ever changing, ever adapting to new soils and climates. Why do we think that when it comes to the church that diversity suddenly crashes to a halt? Why do we think that churches should be homogenous in beliefs, ethnicity, age and social strata?

So my question today is how do we become good gardeners in the churches (gardens) that God has placed us in? How do we recognize, nurture and grow the new varieties that are emerging in our midst without trying to squeeze them back into the old models (plants)? How do we become those good gardeners who can both recognize and nurture the new things that are emerging in our midst?


You may also like


wwwendy@aol.com January 31, 2013 - 5:53 pm

I loved seeing the Interfaith Amigos last night at East WEst Bookstore….what wisdom from a Muslim, Jew and Christian…cross pollination indeed!

Christine Sine January 31, 2013 - 5:59 pm

Yes I think that cross pollination from different faiths is very important too. We can learn so much from each other.

Wendy McCaig February 2, 2013 - 2:46 pm

I could not agree more! I love what is happening in the intersection of church and world – the places where the lines that were once starkly drawn between the two have become blended. It is an exciting time to be a gardener in God’s field with things popping up all over the place that are so unique looking that we have the privilege of naming new species. May we all have eyes to see these strange looking expressions as fruit and not weeds!

Christine Sine February 2, 2013 - 3:33 pm

Amen to that Wendy – and may we also remember that a weed is often just a basically a plant that is in the wrong poace

brambonius February 16, 2013 - 2:41 pm

Funny, I do have seeds of ‘red zebra’ tomatoes and want to try them this year… (thought it was developed by Tom Wagner like the famous green zebra, but that seems to be not true)

Very interesting metaphor, and quite true. The church is in constant evolution, and to adapt it needs to change all the time, and like in nature cross pollination is very interesting then…

Leave a Comment