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TREE CATHEDRAL SERVICE - GARDENS IN THE BIBLE

1. THE GARDEN OF EDEN Genesis 2:8-19
Have you read English Passengers ? It is written by Matthew Kneale and was the winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year 200.
All about a Victorian clergyman who is determined to prove the evolutionists wrong and tries to discover the Garden of Eden which he is convinced is in Tasmania. The story is about the voyage there and how things gradually break down in the fruitless search.

Garden of Eden only exists in our imagination – place and time of perfect creation – humanity, animal and plant kingdoms all living in harmony.
All of that before the creation was spoilt.
Genesis explains how it got spoilt by telling story of the special time and place that existed before sin.

Because it is an imaginative way of explaining what is wrong with our world it is a mistake to say that because a Garden of Eden never really existed, what the Bible has to say is not true. You could say that the Victorian clergyman was “barking up the wrong tree”, and I think that’s one thing the author was trying to show.

What many people do know to be true is that a garden is a place of tranquillity, peace. There is that little poem that you may know:

This kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

God’s Garden by Dorothy Gurney (1858-1932)

Many people enjoy their gardens, and find them a place of devotion, perhaps even a hint of the divine. Many people say that they are more able to meet God outdoors, or in a garden, than inside a church.

Easy for those of us who put a lot into our church to resent that, but perhaps we need to listen to those around us who express that feeling and learn something from them.
Adam and Eve met God walking in the garden in the cool of the day until sin entered into their lives and began spoiling creation. So perhaps that feeling of meeting God outdoors is something about trying to go back to that special place before everything got spoilt by sin.

2. GARDENS OF STRUGGLE & RESURRECTION
Matthew 26:36-46 Gethsemane & John 19:41-42; 20:11-16 Easter

In the middle of the Bible there are two gardens that are important to Jesus.
In the garden which we know as Gethsemane Jesus struggled in prayer.
It was a place he used to go to with his followers when he was visiting Jerusalem. Judas knew where he would find Jesus when he wanted to betray him and get him arrested in the night, away from the crowds.
Just before he went to the cross Jesus agonised in prayer and realised that there was no other way for him to complete his mission than by going to the cross and dying. His struggle was resolved by him saying, “Not my will but yours be done!”
If you’re a gardener, you’ll know that there is a continuous battle with weeds and pests. Some people have adopted “green” methods of tackling them, but whichever way it is a struggle. Perhaps when you are next cursing the enemies of a neat and healthy garden it could remind you of the struggle that Jesus had which was much more important – a struggle which saved the world in the end.

The second garden was a much happier place although it didn’t seem like it at first. This was the garden where Jesus was laid in a tomb. We know how he was laid to rest and left over the Sabbath.

On the first day of the week some women who were his followers came to care for the dead body. They were shocked to find the body was not there. Mary Magdalene stayed behind weeping. She met a men she took to be the gardener and asked him where Jesus’ body had been taken. Only when the man said her name without asking her, did she realise who it was. Because of the joy of that first Easter in a garden, it is our tradition to bring a little bit of outdoors indoors, and a traditional decoration at church is to have an Easter garden somewhere to remind us of the joy and hope after the struggle in those gardens in the middle of the Bible.


3. GARDEN CITY OF HOPE Revelation 2:7; 22:1-5

After the II WW – London very crowded. There were a number of government initiatives to find space for people to live. Idea of garden city developed – specially planned communities for people to live with plenty of green space and healthy environment. After a few smaller towns like Stevenage and Harlow were developed the idea of a larger city came to the town planners and we all now benefit from the building of Milton Keynes.

20 million trees were planted as MK being built. I don’t know if the inspiration came from Bible & Revelation but the vision of paradise which St John painted in words was of a garden city: river running through the middle with trees planted on the banks. The leaves were for the “healing of the nations”. It will be a place of peace, health, life and light.

John’s vision was of the restoration of Eden – not innocent like the original Eden that got spoilt, but made possible through the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus (The Lamb that was slain). His throne lies at the centre of the garden city of paradise. Eden could only restored because of the two gardens that lie at the heart of the Bible: the garden of agony and the garden of resurrection.

Did you know these facts about trees? (taken from Parks Trust)

- Trees can help inner-city residents to cope with many poverty-related stresses.
- Trees located along streets reduce glare and reflection.
- Trees help to improve concentration. Symptoms in children with attention-deficit disorder are relieved after contact with nature; the greener the setting, the greater the relief.

So as we live and move around in our wonderful Garden City, perhaps it can remind us of the greater and eternal hope we have which is described in the book of Revelation. Heaven can be thought of as a wonderful garden city. MK not perfect – but can remind us and we can make the most of it.

Copyright © Rev Paul Smith

   


 
 

God of constant mercy,
who sent your Son to save us:
remind us of your goodness,
increase your grace within us,
that our thankfulness may grow,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen


 

 



Acknowledgements