I come to the garden ... these are the opening words

to "In the Garden," one of those "oldies but goodies" hymns.   At our house, the Burpee's catalogues are starting to arrive in the mail.  A few of the daffodils are blooming in the backyard.  And, I'm starting to get the "itch" to dig in the dirt. 

The image of the garden is prominent in scripture.  In the opening chapters of Genesis, the garden is the home of all God's special creatures -- birds, fish, animals, and humans.  The garden provides an abundance of delights including flowers, food, and water.  More importantly, the garden is the place where God's creatures, the Woman and the Man, walk and talk with God during the most pleasant time of the day.

Not just a source of food, gardens filled with olive trees, fig trees, and fruit trees provided welcome shade during the heat of the day, a place for resting and studying scripture.  Gardens with pools of water were places for bathing.  Banquets were held in gardens, which were also places for worship.  Garens were places where one could spend quality time with one's beloved.  While gardens were sometimes used as places of burial, they still were places of beauty and peace, much as cemeteries are today.  In the Bible, references to gardens often symbolized fertility and blessing, hope, promise, and prosperity.

The Bible tells us that Jesus could be found in the garden teaching and praying.  It was in the garden that Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray with him that final evening.  It was to a tomb in a garden that Jesus' body was taken following his crucifixion.  And, it was in the garden that Mary encountered the resurrected Christ for the first time ever.  The garden symbolizes blessing, hope, and new life. 

And so, on Easter, we fill our chancel with beautiful flowers reminding us of the delightful garden of Genesis and the lovely garden of resurrection that first Easter morning, God's promise of new life, and love, and hope, and blessing.

"And God walks with me, and God talks with me, and God tells me I am God's own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."  (UMH # 314)