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Nick’s sermon for June 26th on the theme of gardens

Here is  the sermon Nick Gellatly  preached at Little Paxton church this morning on the theme of gardens….well worth a read.

A sermon for Gardens Sunday

Genesis 2: 8,9 and 15-19

Revelation 2:7; 22:1-5

John 19:41-42; 20:11-16

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row.

I’m not quite sure if Mary’s garden is open today, but if it is, you will be able to see for yourself her approach to gardening. If it isn’t then there are 16 other gardens in the village you will be able to enjoy during the course of today.

As we have heard from our readings this morning, gardens play a big part in the bible and so warrant several mentions. A garden is where our Christian story began and it is where it ended – or perhaps more appropriately, began again – with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A garden is in many ways a metaphor for our faith. It gives sanctuary and peace, it requires love and attention yet gives so much back and it is a reminder of simpler times in a world of great complexity. Those opening their gardens today are opening more than the plot of land at the back of their home – they are offering hospitality and the hand of friendship and sharing what they have created with those who visit.

May I simply offer one piece of advice – don’t eat the apples! We’ve had the thousands of years since Genesis to work out the kind of trouble that might cause. The prophet Ezekiel said: “You were in Eden, the Garden of God … you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you …  so I cast you … from the mountain of God.”

But the prophet Isaiah declared that one day we would find our way back: “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

A garden is a place of  joy and happiness, a place of peace and security. On his last night on earth, Jesus sought the peace of a garden — the Garden of Gethsemane. It was in this garden that Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”

Following the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, along with Nicodemus, took the body of Jesus and prepared it for burial. John tells us, “Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish Day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

And it is in this garden that we find one of the most moving scenes in scripture, an image of grace and joy. That moment of recognition when Mary hears Jesus call her by name. In an instant, Mary’s mourning turns to joy, and her sorrow gives way to gladness.

This is the demonstration of the truth of Jesus’ promises. The promise that he will see his followers again, the promise that their grief at his absence would turn to joy, the promise that he would not leave his followers to struggle on alone. This one scene captures all of the joy that we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, experience at Easter, and throughout the year, and on this open gardens Sunday, as we celebrate the fact that Christ is risen — Christ Jesus lives today!

And it all takes place in a garden. Now, I know you don’t need me to tell you what a garden is – but let’s think for a moment about the definition. I looked up dictionary.com and it said this:

‘a plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are cultivated’.

Now I am sure that most of us are cultivated, that none of us would like to be thought of as vegetables;  so perhaps it is stretching the metaphor a little far to suggest that we are ourselves gardens.  But if you can make that leap in your mind, then let’s ask ourselves this – as Mary put it – (not that Mary), ‘how does your garden grow’.

Are you ripe for cultivation, a place of beauty where others come to find peace, somewhere the flowers can bloom? Or are you an ornamental garden, only used for display purposes? Or a patch that has run to seed and where the path has become overgrown?

Because while it may be difficult to stretch the metaphor to thinking of ourselves as a garden, we certainly are the sunshine, the light – as Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel: ‘You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others’.

I don’t know whether the bells about be installed in the tower are silver – and I suspect that there are no cockle shells involved – but I do know this,  because it is demonstrated by the CHUFT project – each one of us, as individual members of the body of Christ, has a responsibility to work together to make our church a living garden, a watered garden, a cultivated garden where all people have a chance to grow in love and faith and knowledge of God.

So as you look round the gardens this afternoon, keep Mary, Mary quite contrary in your mind and reflect upon the question she poses: How does your garden grow?

As it was in the beginning, is now and forever more shall be, world without end. Amen.

June 26, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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