Walking with God in the Garden

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian church family.  While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given.  Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered.  Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

Genesis 2:4b-9;15-17;3:8-10

I have a beautiful view of the Kirk Community Garden from my office window.

Several times a week I see members of the Kirk and the community working in the garden… in spring… preparing the garden – planting seeds… as the garden grows… tending the garden… taking care of the plants… and this time of year… beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labor as they have been tending the garden… Sometimes, I watch and it seems like people (members and neighbors) are simply enjoying being in the garden. Walking in the Garden.

Sort of like God in Genesis. I love the line we read from Genesis 3:8: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze…”  It sounds like a daily occurrence to me. Every day…God walks through the garden.

And who can blame God. It is a beautiful garden God has planted… with trees of every kind… bearing fruit… with vegetables that are good to eat (I assume there were no collard greens or Brussel sprouts before the fall)… He even creates humans out of the dirt… to take care of it… to till and tend to it.

I think we sometimes forget that this world is God’s garden, not ours… and that we are the caretakers… sort of like those gardeners I saw at Biltmore village… Sharon and I took a tour of Biltmore a couple of weeks ago… saw the beautiful gardens… and the many workers… taking care of it. Beautiful flowers. The garden belongs to the Biltmore estate… not to them.

In the same way, this garden we call earth belongs to the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth… it is not ours… We are only working in God’s garden for a few years… but it is all God’s… every acre of the planet belongs to God. (even that little plot of land you hold title to… it is God’s!)

I think we forget that sometimes. We treat the earth as if we own it and we can do what we darn well please with it. We develop an attitude like, “It is my home and it is my land and I can do with it as I darn well please!”

But the person of faith knows better if they have read their Scriptures. The Psalmist will remind us:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
                                                         Psalm 24:1

Having said that, today, I am drawn to think about God’s enjoyment of his garden.

Every day, God walks around the garden… there is a gentle breeze… just to enjoy the garden… How much God must have enjoyed seeing his garden grow… and before the fall…watching the man and the woman take care of it… and the garden was taking care of their needs as they eat tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon.  It seemed like paradise indeed.

We sometimes get a glimpse of that garden from time to time. I hope this summer you will get a glimpse… whether you are headed to the beach or the mountains… I hope you will take some time to get out of the house… and take a walk… maybe on the greenway… maybe in the evening when there is a gentle breeze… Take off your headphones while you are at it… listen to the sound of the sea… listen to the rustle of the leaves… listen to the birds… watch a sunrise or sunset… take it in and know that this is God’s gift to you and me… God’s garden to be enjoyed and treasured during our time on earth… take a walk with God in the midst of God’s garden…  Not every moment has to be about work… even God rested and enjoyed the fruits of God’s labor… so disconnect for a few minutes or hours… and simply walk with God in the garden. You might find yourself being renewed…

No one understood this better than St. Francis (the namesake of the present Pope). Growing up, we had a statue of St. Francis in our yard. Dad put it there. St. Francis knew how to enjoy God’s creation. He is called the Patron saint of animals and the environment:

He wrote a song of praise to creation:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.

Francis was inspired to write the song because he walked with God in God’s garden… No one was connected more than he. He saw creation as God’s wonderful gift. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to write something as you walk with God in the Garden… as you appreciate this gift… a gift we sometimes do not appreciate.

I love the story I read about God and St. Francis discussing lawns…

GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

  1. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

  1. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

  1. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

  1. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

  1. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

  1. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

  1. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

  1. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

  1. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

  1. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?”

  1. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber”, Lord. It’s a really stupid movie about…..

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

We are funny creatures aren’t we? Made of dust and dirt… now fallen… but still God’s beloved creatures… And for those who wonder what their purpose is in life… at least here in Genesis the purpose is clear: God put us on earth to tend and care for God’s garden… Take care of what God has given us for our time on earth and hopefully pass it on to the next generation better than we received it. Reminds me of my Mom telling to leave things better than I found them. I think each of us is given a plot to care for during our time on earth…

I also think God would want us to stop once in a while and take a walk with him in the evening breeze… to take time to enjoy God’s creation… It is beautiful you know… when you stop to take it all in… it is a gift of God’s grace to us… So my simple word for you is this: enjoy… enjoy God’s gift… and enjoy a walk with God… knowing that God will enjoy walking with you too!

Amen.

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