Yesterday we celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus.
Sometimes celebrating Easter is difficult when in the midst of seeing suffering and death all around. From a shooting death in what should be simple traffic stop in Grand Rapids MI, to kidnappings in Kaduna Nigeria, to the war in Ukraine, the words “death where is your victory” can sometimes ring hollow.
But yesterday I was reminded of the shift from garden to graveyard, and then graveyard to garden. Our pastor reminded us that in the recounting of the fall in Genesis 3, Eden moved from being a Garden to being a Graveyard. Adam and Eve, who were created to work and care for the garden, suddenly knew death. This garden that was created for flourishing and life had the shadow of death cast over it.
From that time on, the world knew daily the reality of the graveyard.
But then Jesus came to earth, lived and died, and was buried in a tomb which was located in a garden. He defeats death. And the first person He appears to, Mary Magdalene, confuses Him for a gardener (John 20:15).
And as it turns out, she is not mistaken. Our God and Father, and Jesus the Son, are indeed gardeners.
Author Larry Peabody (God Loves Your Work) reminds us that God used words in the creation of this world. Genesis 1 says over and again, “And God said…” But when God made man, there is different terminology. God “formed” man and “took the rib” from man to form woman. You can speak from a distance, but God’s hands got dirty when making humanity.
During Jesus’ time on earth, his hands got dirty again. Very dirty. Calloused, splintered, and injured as a carpenter for 18 years, and then scarred as the nails pierced them as a result of an unjust trial, sentence, and execution.
You can’t garden from a distance. You have to get your hands dirty in the soil. And thankfully, God does not garden from a distance. We are told in John 5:17 that, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”
And each of us, in our own gardens, cannot garden from a distance. And so, our hands get dirty with the invasive species of sin that has filled our own gardens: in our homes, with our loved ones, in our churches, in our communities, in our nations, and in our world.
Death has lost its victory and has lost its sting. The graveyard has become a garden again.
We lament when there is death and sickness and suffering. We lament when there is war and kidnappings and fear.
But we do not despair. We do not grieve as if we have no hope. Rather we join the God that saved us by getting His hands dirty and continue to get our own hands dirty. We get in the dirt, we pull the weeds, we plant the seeds, we labor as gardeners using our time, treasure, and talent.
And in so doing, we strive to join with our Father in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, a little bit at a time.
I thank God for an Easter that allows for both lament and rejoicing, for the now and the not yet.