Melbourne’s gardens are beautiful at this time of year. In spite of the drought, they are alive with colour and the sounds of creation: birds whistling and children playing. Gardens can be wonderful places to spend time to get back in touch, to slow down the place of life and discover beauty afresh.
Gardens also play an important part in the unfolding story of God’s work in the world. We are familiar with the Garden of Eden, the place of harmony and beauty which epitomised creation’s perfection. It was also the place where humanity turned its back on God, preferring to control things their own way, rather than God’s. It remains the symbol of unspoiled beauty, of Paradise Lost, and is an enduring icon of creation’s possibilities. But there are two other important gardens in the story of God: both part of the Easter story, together reflecting the reality of the human condition and its possibilities under God.
Easter begins in the Garden of Gethsemane: the place of prayer chosen by Jesus following the Last Supper. It is in this place that Jesus wrestles with the concept of obedience to God, not wanting to abandon the possibility of a deeper relationship, a reconciled and open relationship with the Creator, such as had been lost in the Garden of Eden. Jesus agonises in prayer about the journey before him: “If there be any other way, Father, let this cup pass from me. Yet not my will, but Yours be done”. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the seeds of our redemption were planted, sown with blood, sweat and tears. Jesus entered this Garden, fully desiring to restore the relationship with God that had been so badly damaged in the Garden of Eden. But it would not be completed until another garden….
In this garden, the place where Jesus’ body had been laid, the women came early on Sunday morning to embalm the body, only to encounter someone they thought to be the gardener. In this place of beauty and life, Jesus revealed himself for the first time since the resurrection: the arbiter of the New Creation, the One who has been identified as the New Adam.
The life-blood of Melbourne’s gardens is in the water. The life-blood of the garden of our lives is the Living Water which is God’s gift to us. It is a place of creative potential, and living beauty, if only we care to spend time tending it, and finding God in the midst.
April 11, 2004