With this new life online, I am doing my fair share of shepherding Zoom gatherings. I always enjoy hearing how people are feeling. These times are often surprisingly emotional, following connection after weeks of separation. They tell stores of juggling life in the pandemic. What I have observed in my onscreen meetings is that there is a clear theme. You might think the theme is of deep thoughts of theological and philosophical study, no. Everyone is talking about their yards and their gardens how their tomato plants are flourishing or dying. The ingenious ways they are protecting the plants from the terror of frost with the armoury of plastic and how they are defeating the weeds.
People are gushing about their beloved plants, their nurtured soil or plans for a great harvest. In a time of global crisis, people are retreating to their yards. I must confess that I have purchased a small greenhouse and placed it proudly on my deck. We love our gardens. God also loves gardens. Throughout the Bible, the garden is a well-watered space set apart for the intense cultivation of plants. It is an image of both the wonder of nature and sacred space to find peace and His refreshing life. People of faith and no faith are seeing the sacred in their yards, a place of peace. The world is in a pandemic, and we are creating small areas of heavenly paradise. A place to be, to think and find reconciliation with the world’s chaos. The term paradise derives from the Persian word for a walled garden. A place for God and a place to join God; this was paradise in the Ancient world.
A biblical garden, it is a touchstone of such motifs as provision, beauty, abundance and the satisfaction of the human need. Next to heaven, it is the preeminent image of human longing. I believe we are all deeply longing for the original paradise that was lost. A place that shares the qualities of the original paradise. Humanity has always pictured perfection as an enclosed garden, lush with vegetation and suffused with tranquillity. The Garden of Eden is more than a physical place; it is also a way of life and a state of the soul. That is why so many of my parishioners say they feel close to God in their beautiful gardens. The very simplicity of life in the garden is so different from the complexities of our modern civilization. As we drive our hands in the cool dark soil, plant our seeds and watch our flowers bloom, may you find the peaceful presence of Christ, who came to lead us back to the beauty of the original garden.