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Then the Gardener formed two others from the soil to tend the Garden and to share in its delights. At peace with the Creation they lovingly nurtured, they shared the labor and the fruit of the Garden with the Gardener and life flourished. But we made a mess of this beautiful Garden (and we still are). Like rotten, over-ripe fruit, we Fell. Believing a lie, we violated the peace of the Garden through an act of disobedience. And our act of independence set us at odds with the Gardener, with His Garden and with each other.
But the Gardener’s dream is the dream of a Garden, a beautiful living Creation that is cared for, nurtured and bears fruit – a crop of love, joy, peace and righteousness. This kind of Garden requires a Garden people, themselves cared for, nurtured and pruned for fruitfulness.
So rather than abandoning this Garden, the Gardener rolled up His sleeves and set to work, tilling the soil and growing a people to join Him in the work. Gotta start with someone. So the Gardener chose a wanderer, Abraham, to provide the workforce. Gotta start somewhere. So He chose a plot of land – Canaan – to be the first corner to reclaim from the weeds and waste.
But the workers were lazy, untrustworthy and even rebellious (it’s hard to find good help these days). The land never got properly tilled to reap a harvest of love, joy, peace and righteousness.
The Gardener begged them, yelled at them, taught them, punished them. He even had them deported, brought back and brought in various overseers. Still nothing would grow right. Little fruit, less beauty. Diseased and unwholesome, barely able to sustain life. Nothing would prosper. So far from the Garden in the Gardener’s dream.
The Gardener sighed and wiped the sweat from His brow. ‘If You want it done right, I guess You’ll have to do it Yourself.’
So the Gardener plants Himself in the Garden-gone-wild, then grew into a first pioneer plant, healthy and whole, distinct from the twisted and sickly specimens surrounding Him. Jesus begins to cultivate love, joy, peace and righteousness (in seed form). Everything and everyone He touches thrives under His care. And He starts to train a new workforce to expand the work.
But it is the nature of life in the Garden that life must give way to death in order to provide a richer, wider life that will continue on. So He Falls, like the towering oak which crashes to the forest floor and gives itself over to be the nursebed of a new generation of plants – from lowly mosses and fungi to new seedlings which will grow to fill the empty space the oak once commanded. Jesus sacrifices Himself to become the very soil in which this new Garden can flourish.
He hands Himself over to one of His own hired hands (it’s still hard to find good help). He is nailed to a tree – the only kind of warped, unfruitful tree we humans seem good at creating – an instrument of death, torture, cruelty, fear and domination – a mockery of love, joy, peace and righteousness.
And He is laid to rest in a garden tomb… Locked away. Cut off. Dead.
But like the grain of wheat, in its falling, its dying, its hiddenness in the earth through the fallow season of winter, it leaves the seeds for a new generation – new life, like the original but multiplied many times over. And after a time of stillness, darkness and silence, new life springs from the womb of the garden tomb!
Now, risen and exalted, Jesus continues His work, transplanting people and places into this rich, new soil, extending a new Garden till it covers the face of the earth and bears a harvest of love, joy, peace and righteousness.
So the story continues, the Gardener hard at work and training an expanding (if not always outstanding) family of coworkers. Under His direction and with His power, the Garden is spreading.
We are somewhere in the middle of this unfolding story, this emerging Garden. But one day, the Gardener will come back. One day He will put an end to every thorn and weed and poison in His Garden. He will come in person to dwell with us in a Garden City of love, joy, peace and righteousness.
So where are you in this Garden story? Have you been transplanted by the loving hands of the Gardener Himself into the fertile soil of Christ’s death and resurrection? Have you begun to work with Him in the Garden, to bear the first few signs of seed-bearing fruit? Have you perhaps died to yourself to bear a greater fruitfulness as you give yourself away to others? Are you being pruned and cut back for the hope of a future harvest?
Wherever you find yourself, let us accept the tender care of our Gardener and roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and join Him in His work.