26th June 2020
thinking about gardens and God
As I sit out in the garden writing this I look around
and cannot help feeling a sense of satisfaction.
By no stretch of the imagination could I be called a gardener.
My idea of a perfect garden are low maintenance flowering shrubs!
However I can see a container of salad stuff, 'Psychedelic Salad'
growing well and indoors a tray of 'Funky Vegetables' sits on the window ledge,
both of which were sent to me by my daughter, in Germany,
for Mothering Sunday instead of the usual bouquet of flowers.
I have no idea what I'm going to do with them when they outgrow their containers,
the only bed I have in my garden is a sun bed!
But all this started me thinking about gardens and God,
the perfect gardener. Gardens can remind us of God's beauty.
They can refresh us and bring to mind our need for rest.
They can also remind us that we are cultivators
and stewards of God's work in the world.
Gardens are a sign of God's grace.
It all started with the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8-10)
The Garden of Eden is one of the most famous settings in the Bible,
it was a peaceful oasis God created as a home for Adam and Eve.
We all know the story so well, but had you noticed that
while God 'created' the world and everything in it, he 'planted' the garden.
"Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden.
The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground -
trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.
In the middle of the garden were the tree of life
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:8, 9).
He not only planted this garden, he refers to it in a very personal way.
In various places the Bible refers to the Garden of Eden as "the garden of God"
or "the garden of the Lord" (Isaiah 51:3).
This brings an entirely different image to mind, doesn't it?
Here we have the picture of God's very hands-on involvement
in planting a garden he calls his very own.
This Garden was, indeed, a very special place.
Our next garden, which tends to get overlooked,
is described in Song of Solomon 4:12-16, was incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
It was an enclosed (walled) garden with spring water and a fountain.
There is an orchard of Pomegranates Trees. (today 10+ trees are commonly accepted as the definition of an Orchard).
There are fragrant plants and herbs growing within the garden:
Henna, Spikenard, Saffron (Crocus), Calamus, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Myrrh, and Aloes.
The warm southerly winds bring out the fragrance of the garden,
the cooler northerly winds carry the scent out of the garden and beyond.
This garden is one of welcome, belonging to and prepared by a bridegroom for his bride;
just as the Church and all believers belong to Jesus.
Do we welcome him into our lives?
One of the most significant gardens of the Bible must surely be that of Gethsemane
which is on the west side of the Mount of Olives
and east of the walls of Jerusalem beyond the Kidron valley
where "Jesus often went" with "his disciples" (John 18:1-2).
The name "Gethsemane" means an oil press,
and the garden was located where multitudes of olive trees grew.
It was in this garden that the closing chapter of the plan for redemption began;
the path to a restored relationship between God and humanity.
It is a garden of struggling, a struggle which ultimately saved the world.
"Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb" (John 19:41).
This forth garden could be called a garden of hope, for there,
early on Sunday morning, a startled Mary Magdalene heard encouraging words:
"Go to my brothers, and say to them,
'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and my God, and your God'" (John 20:17).
If you go to Jerusalem you can visit the Garden Tomb.
It is a beautiful place with a sense of the holy.
Is it where Jesus' body was laid?
The guides showing you round will be at pains to say that no one knows.
It is left up to individuals to listen to what God is saying to us.
In Revelation 22:1-5 we find our final garden.
Garden and city coming together to represent the merging of heaven and earth;
it is here we meet with God who will be the only source of light and our eternal resting place.
This garden is called "the paradise of God,"
the word "paradise" means a park, a place of pleasure;
here heaven is pictured as a restored Garden of Eden.
The "tree of life," on "both sides of" a "river of the water of life, clear as crystal,"
is in the restored garden "bearing twelve fruits monthly" (Revelation 22:1-2).
The curse placed on the original garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17-19) will be gone forever,
for in "the Paradise of God" there "shall be no curse anymore"
(Genesis 3:17-19; Revelation 2:7; 22:3).
From the garden of Eden to the garden of suffering
and resurrection to the eternal city garden where all things are one,
God's story has always been about a garden and our place in it.
Gardens reveal many powerful truths about God and grace;
sowing seeds and cultivating in each of us a deeper understanding of life with God.
This kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
God's Garden by Dorothy Gurney (1858-1932)
Will we allow God to work in and through us
transforming us in mind, body and spirit?
Will we bear good fruit?
Will we bless others?
May it be so.