Sunday, April 3, 2016

A garden setting

At church this morning our pastor announced the theme for this month was "Creation". One of the scripture readings was from Genesis 2. As often happens, there was a phrase there I had never "heard" before, "God planted a garden" (verse 8).  We have been working on a garden since we moved to Florida. It is work. Tilling, seeding, watering, weeding, fencing to keep the critters out and much more. To plant in Hebrew literally means to put the seed in the ground. How did God put the seed in the ground? Did he get as much dirt on himself as we do? Why a garden? God could have put the first humans any place, in a tent in the desert, in a high rise in a city, on a mountaintop. He could have skipped over the years of Israel's desert wanderings and taught them the lessons of water, quail and manna had he started them out in a desert. Instead, he gave them a garden full of edible and beautiful plants. Rather than bread he gave them broccoli. The humans grew up in a garden setting. Today, city dwellers have learned how important garden settings are for urban people. It is healthy to have links to our dirt based life (in verse 7 we learn we have come from the dirt, too). If we can have only a window garden or a pot full of dirt and plants on the front steps, it is important to have a connection to the dirt. Even if it is only a few tomato plants we buy already seeded in a plastic garden  tray, it reminds us we are vitally connected to the dirt. What we eat does not come in a bag at the drive thru at McDonalds; it comes from the ground. From a garden, from a field, from the sea, all gifts of God's grace. We are dependent on God and on others. Interdependent with all other living things on the God who planted the first garden.

Gardens are messy. They are unmanageable. Like life, there are obstacles that frustrate us. There are limits. We cannot take or control, we can only receive. We are not the centers of our universe.

As the First Gardener, God breathes life into the soil he holds close (Norman Wirzba's phrase). Interesting, that Mary "saw" Jesus as the Gardener after the resurrection. God is close to the heart of the action, planting, enjoying, and placing us in the midst of it to enjoy it, too. With God, we draw near to the worms, ladybugs, ants, bees - all of the living things God delights in- in a celebration of life.

It's ironic how we have turned our backs on our garden heritage. Just off the interstate on the way to Jacksonville from our town, the state is in the midst of a major road construction project. Thousands of trees have been uprooted. For what? A road, on and off ramps, our convenience, our efficiency, so we can get there a few minutes sooner. Who decided? I did not get to vote. I would have shouted, No!

So, a month long focus on Creation seems like a very good use of our time. We have ignored it way too long and our world is much the worse for it.

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