I Love Gardens

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I Love Gardens
Easter Sunday
20th April 2014
by Rev Charmaine Braatvedt

John 20: 1 – 18
I love Gardens. I am not a very good gardener, but I do appreciate having a nice garden and one of my favourite people is Jim Hoole, who is the man who tends my garden at home for me.

In today’s reading Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener as she tries to process the the fact that his body is missing from the tomb in the garden.

There is a lovely poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney called God’s Garden and the last verse of this poem is on a plaque hanging in the Garden of Remembrance next to the Church.

The verse reads as follows:
The 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.

Why are gardens so special?

Perhaps they enable us to be creative as we have been born in the creative image of God.

Perhaps because they are places where we are at one with nature

Perhaps because they are places where we are able to be nurturers and to be nurtured

Perhaps because they are places where we see the full cycle of life played out for us before our very eyes.

Life, death and new life.

Easter is a time when we reflect on life, death and new life and the role that Love with a capital L plays in that cycle.

The biblical narrative is neatly supported by three gardens and I would like to look at the meaning of Easter in terms of these three gardens:

· The Garden of Eden

· The Garden of Gethsemane

· The Garden of the empty Tomb.

1. The Garden of Eden is the biblical garden of God described in the book of Genesis chapters 2 and 3. The word Eden means fruitful and well watered in Aramaic. So in love, God created a beautiful garden which he intended to share with the human beings he had created and whom he loved. Here we discover the creative and constructive nature of love. This garden was watered by the rivers of life and love. In this Garden people were free from sin and it was a place of innocence. Here God ordained that people would be loved by him and would live a free life, untainted by any knowledge of evil.

However we all know how the story goes. Humans having been created with the ability to love were also given free will. Love by its nature cannot be forced and so along with love must come free will.

Perversely humans chose to use their free will to explore evil and so Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the forbidden fruit. This left the world with the corrupting problem of sin and evil.

With the demise of their innocence Adam and Eve were forced to exit the lovely garden God had created for them.

Outside of this idyllic state of innocence, humans found themselves struggling to remain in right relationship with God, the author of Love. The choice they had made meant that they were no longer in right relationship with God. It meant that they had forfeited their place in the royal Garden and they had lost their inheritance of eternal life.

2. This brings us to the second Garden. The Garden of Gethsemane. Here in this Garden we find Jesus the Christ, the one sent by God to save humans from the corruption of sin, love made flesh and dwelling amongst us, God incarnate.

Sin is present in this garden also, for it is here, on the Mount of Olives, that Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. A kiss is normally a sign of love. Judas not only betrays Jesus but also betrays love with that kiss. Yet unlike the Garden of Eden, in this garden sin is defeated by love. In this garden we see the sacrificial nature of love. Jesus, faced with the pain and suffering of his immanent passion and death, is literally sweating blood from anxiety until he finally chooses to use his free will to sacrifice his own life in the interests of restoring a right relationship between God and humans. “Father let this cup pass from me, but not my will rather thy will be done.” This decision leads to the crucifixion and death of Love at the hand of the destructive forces of evil.

3. The third garden is the Garden of the Empty Tomb. Here after three days, love is resurrected for all those who choose to believe and to follow Jesus. Here in this garden we see love conquering death and the legacy of the Garden of Eden has been overcome. So we see the power of love in this garden.

Herein lies the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, because here in this garden, Jesus offers new life to those who choose to follow him.

This is the story of redemption. Herein also lies the meaning of Jesus’ death and passion.

These three gardens hold the key to God’s plan to restore right relationship with humanity.

In these three gardens we see the struggle between love and death, good and evil and in the resurrection of Jesus, we see love triumph over death.

So in each Garden we discover a vital characteristic of love and we see God’s love for humankind to unfold.

In the first garden, the Garden of Eden, we see the creativity of love and God’s plan for a perfect environment for humans and his creation to flourish. This plan is railroaded by evil.

In the second garden, the Garden of Eden we see the solution to the problem of evil and the sacrificial nature of love as Jesus offers himself to be a living sacrifice in the interests of love.

In the third garden, the Garden of the Tomb we see the power of love to overcome death and evil and God’s promise of eternal life is manifest.

So, God the author of love, outworks his loving plan to save humanity on the stage of these three gardens.

The 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.

How will you choose today?

It is a time-honoured tradition for Christians, the followers of Christ to renew their Baptismal vows on Easter Day.

In doing so we once again choose the path of Love, we choose to be in right relationship with God and we choose as followers of Christ to be inheritors of the eternal life he promises us in his death and resurrection.

How will you choose today?

At our Baptism we responded to God’s love and were through the sacrament of Baptism, made to be children of God, followers of Christ as the way the truth and the life. It is fitting on the day when we remember the resurrection of Jesus to renew that commitment to following him. So I ask you who feel the call of Christ on your life to stand with the rest of your church family and together let us renew our Baptismal vows.

AMEN.

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