LENT 1A: Failed Gardeners

LECTIONARY PASSAGE:  Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Gideon’s Spring, Israel, Feb. 2010

Spring has begun to peek out from behind the winter clouds.  In fact, here in Houston where I live, we have had some incredibly beautiful days.  But my gardens look like anything but spring.  I just haven’t been able to find the time to get something done.  So every time I walk outside my house, I am reminded of my current status as a failed gardener, reminded that where there once had been beauty, there is nothing but desolate dirt.

It’s interesting that we read this passage the first Sunday of Lent.  We just had Ash Wednesday.  We were just reminded that we are dust.  But from dust comes life.  Perhaps this is as much a story about life as it is about death and sin.  After all, as the story goes, they didn’t actually die from eating of the tree.  Or did they?  What was gone was innocence.  What was gone was that unblemished connection to God.  What was gone was that childhood view that nothing could ever go wrong.  There are those whose faith understanding is that we are called to return to the Garden.  That sounds stupid to me.  Why would God create this whole incredible universe and then expect us to stay locked in a garden?

But the truth was, they did die—they died to themselves.  And God began to show humanity the way home, the way through temptation and exile and wandering in the wilderness.  God began to show humanity what it was like to return.  Our whole faith journey may be more about returning home, returning to God, than about anything else.  I, personally, don’t think we’re headed back to this metaphorical Garden; otherwise, it would seem that God would be apparently content with plunking us down into some sort of pre-perfected existence where we could just enjoy the beauty.  I think that was only the beginning.  God has a whole lot more in store for us.  Maybe the point of the story is not that Adam and Eve messed it up for all of humanity and got us banished from some imaginary garden.  Maybe the point of the story is that our eyes can be opened, that we can gain vision beyond ourselves.  Maybe the point of the story is to remind us what tilling and tending really is.   It’s hard work.  It’s more than just cleaning up a few weed scragglers that have snuck into one’s otherwise-pristine existence.  It’s about going where you have not; it’s about navigating weeds and storms and the temptation to plant what will not grow; it’s about getting your hands dirty; it’s about learning to see life where there is only dust and dirt.  It’s about going into the world with a faint memory of what beauty and life is and bringing it to be around you.  It’s not about returning to the Garden; it’s about returning to God.  So, actually, there is no such thing as a failed gardener.  There is always more planting and tending to do for the life that God continually offers.

So, go and be tenders of the life that God offers! 

Grace and Peace,


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