Rector's Ramblings: April 4th 2021

 

 

   I want to take you on a garden tour today. Now I am not great at visiting gardens as I don’t know plant names and so forth but I want to show you some very interesting gardens. My own garden is at its best right now with primrose, grape hyacinth, forsythia and more. I’d give you a photo of it but I can’t get the camera to download.

  Let’s go right back at the beginning to the Garden of Eden. Have a look round and you’ll see all in harmony; God and his new humans Adam and Eve together with no walls yet built between them. Imagine them playing together, laughing together and God delighting in his wonderful people and them delighting in him. Notice that the whole of creation is in harmony, at peace. Do delight in this Garden.    Sadly, you’ll see the harmony spoilt as Adam and Eve turn to their own way, not God’s way. They hide from God and God looks for them in sadness. Their time in the garden is ended and they are out in the world. The relationship between them and God, them and the rest of creation spoiled. All the consequence of our short-sightedness at that point. Their action is called by the name ‘sin’ which in essence is us turning our back on God and saying determinedly ‘I will do it my way’.

  The fracturing continued but as you travel to the next garden, notice that God wasn’t giving up. Through his dealings with his people, he was working to bring them to freedom, to bring them back to him, to bring peace; inviting them to a relationship of following his way and not their own. God was enacting words of salvation, hope, and love to his people from the very beginning. God’s words parted the Red Sea and drew the Israelites into a new land and life. Those same words transplanted in humanity a new heart, a new spirit, and made us God’s people. Ezekiel stood in the Valley of Dry Bones watching God open graves and breathe life into dead skeletons.

    Now you enter the Garden of Gethsemane. Look around – it is an olive grove. Notice all the signs of careful agriculture and the olive press. Look at Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Here he is wrestling with what lies ahead but in obedience following the Way of the Cross. That obedience is not about doing what a harsh Father demanded but an obedience born of sheer love for the human race, and the joy at the prospect of setting us free. For Jesus it is a hard road, a costly road. He would have done more if more had been needed. We may not understand why the reconciliation between us and God demanded this hard road but clearly it did. All we can know, as did the first Christians, is that Jesus’ act in dying for us changed everything. We are set free from sin and death. What a garden! Will you wait with Jesus a while or like his disciples fall asleep?

 

  Easter Day brings you to the Garden of the Resurrection. A place of fresh greenness and early morning dew. A place with a tomb but a tomb with the stone rolled away and as you look in, the tomb is empty. You’re puzzled as the guide had said that Jesus was buried there. Notice then, women coming and going in confusion. Disciples rushing to see and is that light the glimpse of an angel?

   The news filters through to you: God has raised Jesus from death to life. The stone has been rolled away from the tomb as it can be rolled away from all that we have buried of anger, bitterness, guilt, regret and self hatred. Count your sins: Christ is risen and you are forgiven. Stand before God:  Christ is risen and you are loved. This is newness, this is new life.

     Of this garden the Church proclaims, “Christ is risen!” It is the good news we want and need to hear. Those are sacred words: words of hope, life, and resurrection. Everything has changed. We are a new people. What a garden you realise as you wait and watch here.

  

   There is another garden which you find hard to imagine – it is known as the Garden of God’s delight. You look around and to your surprise, the garden of God’s delight is his precious human beings. Here the garden is a mixed bag of joy and sorrow, beauty and ugliness, sin and obedience. And you see a humble figure, God himself, the gardener, carefully tending the garden, nurturing each and every plant to be of its best.

 

    At the end of God’s story is another garden (not quite a garden really). It’s quite a place to visit. What do you make of it? Here is what St John says of it in the Book of Revelation 22: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, flowing with water clear as crystal, continuously pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The river was flowing in the middle of the street of the city, and on either side of the river was the Tree of Life, with its twelve kinds of ripe fruit according to each month of the year. The leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations. And every curse will be broken and no longer exist, for the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there in the city. His loving servants will serve him; they will always see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more. They will never need the light of the sun or a lamp, because the Lord God will shine on them.” What a sight. At last the restoration of harmony, where there is no division, no stones blocking old tombs; where there is at last harmony between us and God and with the whole of creation. The most beautiful garden ever.

  I hope you enjoyed my garden tour, my bit of Easter silliness, but also I hope of some inspiration. Some provoking of thought.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!