It’s time to find our gardening tools

 on April 1, 2019

Things tend to happen in the garden.

Our story of faith begins in the garden. The garden was verdant, luscious, brimming with life. The soil, streams, rain and sun provided perfect conditions for growth. It was home for plant and animal, winged bird and fish in the waters. And it was home for humanity, paradise for Adam and Eve. A sacred place where God walked, holy, safe and secure. We knew ourselves to be loved. We knew our place. However, we have this tendency to over-reach, to take too much before our time, to grasp for a little more. The conditions were right for that, too. A serpent, the tree, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. We took a taste and then we tried to cover up. We pointed fingers to deflect blame, but no matter, we left the garden – or was it more that the garden left us?

Things tend to happen in the garden.

On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, (according to the Gospel of St. John) Mary Magdalene went to the garden. Perhaps she went to grieve, to make some sense, to be as close to him as possible. To her horror, she discovered that the tomb was open; the stone was rolled away. It must have been a frightening scene. Was it grave robbers, mischief-makers or authorities trying to erase the evidence? What she could not see, at first, was that the open grave would become our doorway back to the garden. Stooping to look in through her tears, the linens that once lay near his head and his feet had become angels. Why are you weeping? they asked her. She was still so stuck in Friday that she could not see Sunday dawning. The same question was asked again, by the one she thought was the gardener: Why are you weeping?

My very first job was cutting grass and tending gardens. I was in Grade 8. My older brother and I had started our own business, but then he quit when a better job offer came along. He was in Grade 10. So, I hired my younger brother, Mark, who was in Grade 5. We had 20 regular customers. We had our own lawnmower, garden implements and tools. We were busy that summer. We cut grass, trimmed hedges, and dug up and weeded gardens. Cutting grass was the easy part but tending the gardens – that was a different enterprise altogether. We really didn’t know what we were doing. Sometimes weeds looked a lot like some perennials.

We took instructions from our customers – what to prune, what to weed and not to weed, what to trim and what to leave. Even with good directions, we didn’t always get it right. If the truth be told, we kind of messed up sometimes – okay, I messed up. Like the time I lopped off sprouting peonies, thinking them to be dreaded weeds. When I recognized my mistake, I tried to find a way to reattach the stem, to no avail. I tried plunking the cut pieces into the soil, shoring up the stems with earth to make them look good, but the stems wilted in the midday heat. It was better to confess than to cover up.

She thought he was the gardener and she was not wrong. After all, it was the familiar sound of the gardener’s footsteps that Adam and Eve heard when they took cover in the garden. And it would be the gardener who would restore life on Easter morning. Like the living creatures being named in the garden so long ago, she would experience the resurrection when she heard him call her name, Mary! The cover-up, the hurt, the brokenness, the separation, the grief, the sorrow, the pain and the disbelief evaporated with her simple confession: Rabbouni!

Things tend to happen in the garden.

And now, it is the very garden that is under threat. Our over-reaching and grasping ways, our neglect and cavalier attitudes have put such a strain upon creation. As temperatures continue to rise, weather patterns shift, species once named so long ago slowly disappear. Some make predictions, some deny and some believe, some downplay while others wring their hands. And what about us? How do we as a people of faith respond?

The last question that is put to us in the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Alternative Services is: Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth? We respond by saying, I will, with God’s help. It’s time to find our gardening tools, to take instructions from scientists and climatologists, mystics and children, farmers and monastics, Indigenous elders and theologians. It’s time to tend the garden with all our might, to avoid the moment when, try as we might, we cannot reattach the stem to the root. After all, when we confess that God is our helper, anything is possible. Christ is Risen!


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