Guest post - Christine Aroney-Sine

Christine Aroney-Sine is a friend and a valued guide to the contemplative life and is a welcome guest on my blog this Earth Day.

Christine is the founder and facilitator for God Space, an online community that grew out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening, and sustainability. Today’s post is adapted from her new book, The Gift of Wonder in which she explores characteristics like play, curiosity and imagination that shape us into the people God intends us to be. Her other books include To Garden With God, Rest in the Moment, Return to Our Senses, GodSpace, and Tales of a Seasick Doctor.

Living out the Easter Story in Our Gardens

God bless this garden

Through which your glory shines,

May we see in its beauty the wonder of your love.

God bless the soil

Rich and teeming with life,

May we see in its fertility the promise of new creation.

God bless our toil

As we dig deep to turn the soil,

May we see in our labour your call to be good stewards.

God bless each seed

That takes root and grows,

May we see in their flourishing the hope of transformation.

God bless the rains

That water our efforts to bring forth life,

May we see in their constancy God’s faithful care.

God bless the harvest

Abundant and bountiful in season,

May we see in God’s generosity our need to share.

God bless this garden

As you bless all creation with your love,

May we see in its glory your awesome majesty.

Here in Seattle, spring is erupting in all its glory. Daffodils and tulips smile at me as I walk along. Cherry blossoms take my breath away as drive down tree lined streets and lush green grass is emerging in the barren spots in our backyard. I love watching the kids climb trees to smell the fragrance of the cherry blossoms and giggle with delight while running barefoot through the grass. It is a time to get our hands in the garden dirt, exalt in the beauty of God’s creation and the wonder of the world in which we live.

It is not by accident that this season of garden resurrection and new life coincides with Easter and the wonder of the resurrection story.  This year, Earth day, April 22nd, which commemorates the founding of the modern environmental movement follows hard on its heels. Earth day is increasingly seen by churches and creation care organizations as an opportunity to reconnect their congregations to God’s love for creation. This year it falls on the day after Easter and our celebrations of the death and resurrection of Christ.  Jesus final journey from Gethsemane to resurrection can be seen as a reversal of the journey out of the garden of Eden in Genesis. From Gethsemane to Golgotha and Jesus garden tomb, we journey back into the garden of God.

Jesus suffering begins in the garden of Gethsemane, the day before his crucifixion. In this garden his agony is poured out in drops of blood like sweat, that seep into the earth. His pain is symbolic of the pain and suffering that became a part of Adam and Eve’s lives when they were expelled from the garden of Eden.

On Good Friday there is another garden. Jesus, the second Adam, dies at Golgotha and John notes: in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden. (John 19:41) Here Jesus’ body is placed. His death is like the planting of a seed reminding us that: Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone, but its death will produce many new seeds, a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24). 

In 1511, the German artist Albrecht Dürer fashioned a woodcut of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus as depicted in John 20:15. She came to the garden tomb looking for Christ’s body, instead she found a very much alive Jesus and she thought he was the gardener. This is not a throw away phrase. It is of cosmic significance! Jesus is indeed a gardener. He is the gardener of the new creation. Here in this garden that begins in death, new life emerges and the glory of God is revealed.

Whereas the Genesis story begins in a garden paradise and ends in our present garden world of pain and suffering, the Easter story begins in the garden of pain and suffering and ends in a garden of wholeness and flourishing, a new paradise in which we once more walk close to our God abundantly provided for. In this new garden Jesus, the head gardener, once more invites us to be who God created us to be – stewards of all creation, tending this new paradise so that it once more flourishes for all the creatures of the earth to enjoy.

In Isaiah 65 and again in Revelation 21 we see beautiful pictures of this new garden of God. Life and freedom, wholeness and abundance flourish and we look forward in hope to its completion.

Our challenge is cooperating with Jesus the gardener in his work. In many ways God’s new garden is still in its infancy, and needs care in order to flourish. Soil must be fertilized, seeds planted, watered and nurtured, fruit harvested. To see it completed we must willingly journey with Jesus from the garden of Gethsemane with its struggle and suffering, through the garden of death to the new life that begins in the garden of the resurrection.

The old Adam and Eve were excluded from Eden by a barrier of angels with flaming swords. Jesus the new Adam, ripped apart the barrier with his death and stands ready to welcome us into the new paradise garden. The barrier that separated us from the holy place of intimacy with God and God’s world has been removed. Now together with all God’s people and indeed with all God’s creation we can enter into the intimacy of relationship with God in a restored world of wholeness and abundance. We must continue to till and fertilize the soil, plant seeds of freedom and generosity and wholeness until the full glory of God’s resurrection created world is revealed.

One beautiful practice some of my friends and their kids love to create at Easter is a resurrection garden. All you need is a terra cotta tray, a small terra cotta pot for the tomb, some potting soil and small pebbles to create the garden. Plant grass seed on top of the tomb, place a large rock in front and craft twigs into crosses. Water daily and watch it flourish. This is an easy project, even if you don’t have a green thumb. Simple instructions can be found here. It is a wonderful expression of the connections between the Easter story and God’s good creation.

Resurrection gardens inspired me to create meditation gardens for all the seasons of the liturgical calendar. Planning, creating and then using gardens for Advent, Lent and Easter in particular has strengthened my faith and revealed new depths of the joy in God’s heart. I often say, I read about the story of God in the bible but in nature I experience it. All gardens are living parables. Life, death and resurrection lived out daily. Reading the story reflected in God’s garden reaffirms our faith and enriches us with new perspectives on the God we love.

In our own small intentional community, the Mustard Seed House in Seattle, we grow about 40% of our fruit and vegetables. We invite neighbors and friends who have no gardens to join our monthly garden days and once a year hold an apple party, inviting friends and strangers to join us in processing our 200 pounds of apples. Not only do we share garden techniques, we also learn about God, faith and what it means to be followers of Christ.

This garden enthusiasm has become one of my richest spiritual prompts, inspiring me to write my own prayers and liturgies of glory to God like the prayer above. It has empowered me to see my garden chores as the work of God’s new creation and inspired new delight in gardening and in the beauty of God’s creation for me.

This year, as you celebrate Easter and the delights of spring time I invite you to enter into God’s garden world in fresh ways too. Plant a resurrection garden. Watch the new seeds emerge and reflect on the resurrection story.  Be inspired by the One who is indeed creating a new world through the resurrection of Christ.

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