The Garden God Designed
I recently had the privilege to plan and lead a celebration of life for one of my uncles in Alabama. As I gathered my thoughts and memories of my Uncle Jack, there was clearly plenty to say about him: faithful Christian, husband, father, veteran and the list went on. However, the image of gardener kept popping back into the middle of all those thoughts and accompanying emotions. Uncle Jack was an awesome gardener.
Many of you are gardeners and so you probably have experienced the same kind of gratification that my Uncle Jack did as he worked the soil and then shared with others those fruits of diligent laboring (I especially loved the green beans he grew). In the Bible, we hear in Genesis the great story of how God created, and all that the divine gardener created was deemed “good.” Adam and Eve were tasked with gardening as a part of their relationship with God. In Revelation, at the close of the Biblical narrative we experience again the garden imagery with the tree of life and its beautiful fruit as a part of the New Jerusalem. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is killed, buried, and resurrected in a garden.
I find it exciting to connect God’s work with gardening. There is a certain intentionality and commitment involved. But there is also great joy and a sense of peace knowing that something new is happening. A gardener is an important part of nurturing and caring for the new growth and bringing forward its fruit.
For those of us that have never gotten dirt under the fingernails or calluses on our hands from planting seeds, pulling weeds, or gathering the fruits of traditional gardening, we can still be gardeners in a symbolic way as we commit to something and play a role in care and nurture of something that leads to fruit. The dirt, sores, and tired muscles may look or feel a little different, but likely the same joy and pride of playing a role in tending to something important is experienced.
Jesus often taught using parables and many of his stories have an agricultural basis. Growing and fruitfulness are important for Christ followers. It is important for us to be nurtured, but also important for us to be a gardener as well. We are a diverse people and so there is a wide array of “gardeners” and their “gardens.” You might say that as we were created in God’s image, we are created to be gardeners.
Occasionally we have a weed or two that needs to be pulled away so that our lives can receive the nutrients God intends for us, but at the same time, we need to get our hands and knees a little “dirty” and our muscles sore as we tend to the “gardens” around us. Keep your roots planted, but don’t fear spreading the seed of God’s Word to those whom you know and the strangers you meet. It’s all part of the garden God designed and we are invited to join God and to make it a blessing for others. God created, and it was good. Go and do likewise.
See you in worship!