Jesus came to give us new life, life in all abundance, and that is certainly what we find in a well-tended garden; growth, flourishing, nurture, learning. I pray that each of us may have the chance to connect with nature this weekend, and remember the transforming power of God.
How is your garden looking at the moment? I know we’ve got some great gardeners in this congregation. I am not one of them, but even mine is starting to shoot forth some lovely things – mainly dandelions and daisies. Not everyone will have a garden, but on the whole we will all have at least a windowsill to pop a plant on, or grow a tomato or two. In fact I did see in Waitrose yesterday they are doing a specific windowsill range of tomatoes you can grow in the actual pots they come in
(other supermarkets are available of course)
We live in such a beautiful world, we have been gifted this amazing planet by God, and so perhaps its isn’t surprising that gardens turn out to be quite key in the bible.
We have of course the garden of Eden, that allegory of perfection and the tearing apart of humanity and God. The garden of Eden is what we are all striving for – in this world and the next – the union or reunion with God that we are currently missing or is imperfect. Sometimes, we may catch a glimpse of that garden, shimmering in a haze of beauty in the distance, but often, it seems far from us as we journey through life.
It is during this Easter period that gardens really come into their own in the biblical stories. The garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray before his arrest and trial. What an ordeal he was having – wrestling with his thoughts, in anguish at what was about to come, wanting to change the course of events – ‘take this cup from me’, he prays to God. He feels let down by his friends, who are unable to stay awake and pray with him. I’m sure there is much that will resonate with each of us – were have been our Garden’s of Gethsemane – perhaps where we have wrestled with difficulties, with things we haven’t wanted to do, but perhaps feel is the right thing, or sometimes things we are called to do. We all have limes of loneliness, and isolation, where it feels as if there is no one in the world who is on our side.
Gethsemane is a harsh and rocky place to be. It’s a long road from there to the Garden of the empty tomb – the new life of the resurrected Jesus that we heard about in the beautiful passage from John. I love this passage, the interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is unspeakably beautiful. We have all known the shattering pain of grief, and Mary’s tears resonate with us as she stands by the tomb – and then she turns towards the gardener, and realises that it is Jesus. This is a garden of hope, of joy, of new life. A garden of transformation.
So Easter gardens are a feature of many churches at this time of year – if you haven’t visited Romsey Abbey as yet, theirs is certainly worth a look – and our own St Mark’s have a rather lovely one, which is featured on our photo board at the back of church, if you want to have a look later. This morning we are going to make our own Easter Garden here for All Saints, and use it as a metaphor, to help us think about where faith is in our lives.
So I may need some helpers to make my easter Garden. Have I got any helpers, any willing helpers? The first thing we need to go in our garden, what do you reckon, what do we need (off camera Soil) Soil marvellous… So Soil is going in first. You may need to launch in guys, just chuck it in.
So Soil what is our foundation? What nurtures us and feeds us, in life and faith? What do we use to ensure we carry on learning and developing in faith and in self knowledge, throughout our lives?
We all need a good foundation, we all need a good foundation, something underneath us that contains nutrients - that enables us to grow
So what else might we need in our Empty Tomb … in our Empty Tomb - in our Easter Garden, I’ve just given you a clue there. What might we need … We need an empty tomb!
Butterflies emerging from the chrysalis are often used, aren’t they, as a symbol of Christ entombed and then rising after three days, and so we think about chrysalises, and cocoons and tombs as places where we are stuck, as places where we are not able to move, we can’t move forward. I wonder where in your life you feel stuck, where are you hoping for change and transformation. Have a think about that as we add a little bit more soil. Where are there places in your life where you want things to be different and how might you go about achieving that. So we have our empty tomb that reminds us of the resurrection of Christ, of the fact that change is possible, that we can move from one situation to another, that new life and new hopeis possible
So we also need some stones and rocks. Stones and rocks. Life is a bumpy road – none of us ever have a totally smooth pathway. There are things that trip us up, things to negotiate unexpected happenings that throw us off course. Often, people ask me why horrible things are happening to the, and it’s a question that we all wrestle with – I have to say I don’t know, but that I really don’t think God wants them to suffer, but I do know is that we can learn how God walks beside us in the midst of our suffering and draw closer to the divine presence through it.
So we have our empty tomb, or soil and our rocks. Now we need some flowers. Flowers of course are an essential part of our garden. If we have good soil, and we nurture ourselves and our faith we too will flourish and bloom like the flowers in the garden. I wonder if you can think about the areas of your life where you can see things flourishing - even if it’s just tiny shoots to nurture at the moment? Feed those areas, enjoy them and enjoy the beauty of them
Finally in our bag, I think we have moss – it’s nice green soft moss – I know it’s not every gardeners delight, moss, but actually it is mine, because its lovely to lie on especially on a hot sunny day in the summer laying under a tree on a mossy patch with a nice book and that is representing rest and relaxation, gentleness and peace. It’s just as important to pay attention to the things in our lives that enable us to rest, as it is to be active and busy. We all need that balance in our life don’t we? Our faith is just as much about life in abundance for us - as it is for what we give to other people. There must be that balance
The other thing we have in our garden, we have of course the cross – the ultimate symbol of death, which is transformed through the resurrection of Christ. In our prayers this morning, we will be using the flowers, which I’ve got down here, to transform the cross. I will invite you to come forward as we listen to some music, and thread the flower through the netting of the cross. Perhaps as you do, you can pray for someone who needs the transformation of God, or for an area of your own life that is in need of transformation, and for areas of the world that need God’s love and blessing at this time and I think particularly we think of Sri Lanka today in the news again with some really tragic happenings there. So we pray for the people of Sri Lanka
So thank you to our helpers who have done a fantastic job at making our easter garden. It looks amazing. Thank you all very much.
So this easter time I pray for you, for your families, that you may know the transformation that you may know the growth of God and his light and presence in the world.