We are reading through the New Testament in 2022. Find the reading plan here

Gardening

By Jared Barnett
In Formed
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Is this a perennial or annual? How much sun is needed? Oh, what about our dogs… is this one of the poisonous plants?

These questions have been part of springtime conversation at the Barnett home as my wife, Amber, and I envision new gardens for our front and back landscape. Before I was pastor, I worked for a landscape crew in Denver, Colorado that specialized in fine gardening.

Now, I’m no Master Gardener, but since that time I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and in the yard. Whether it was digging flower beds, building retaining walls, trimming “dead-heads” off plants to encourage growth, there are endless lessons of spiritual formation to learn from gardening.

For example, it's been said that flowers are the laughter of nature. Their colors, textures, and structure show off the bold and vivacious creativity of God. My wife, who in her younger years was a Junior Master Gardener through the Texas 4-H program, has had a blast reviving that holy hobby this spring. I, too, have enjoyed upgrading our curb appeal with a little time spent with my friends: shovel, dirt rake, and trowel.

You know what else? The early scenes of the biblical story include a garden.

It was a place of beauty and potential, ready to burst with the generative life given to it by God, a place full of shalom. Humans were called to cultivate that garden, to expand its expression, and draw out the form and function of all creation as they reflected the character of God in the world.

What a mission!

Right now, Amber and I are waiting on a few flowers to unfold in our front garden. Each day we check to see if the right combination of water and sunlight and oxygen brought about the blooms. Some flowers are peeking through, but there are many more that we hope to see soon.

Here’s what I know. It’s something I learned from grade school science class way back when: Photosynthesis will do its work. There’s hope on the tiny horizon of our front garden. The flowers will bloom. It’s what they were made to do.

I'm reminded of Romans 8 where the writer, Paul, inspired by the Spirit, records this truth:

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

Frustration, subjugation, bondage, decay. Ugh, what unlovely words. The narrative of Scripture reveals that our call to cultivate beauty in the world went terribly wrong. A sickness infected and affected God’s good world; a willful rebellion was launched by humans against their good God and His glorious mission. Sin shattered everything; shalom was vandalized.

And here we are. Here we all are. We live our days in a frustrated and hurting world. We are culprits in a culture of decay who long for the glorious liberation and life for which we were made; a life in wholehearted relationship with our Creator, one another, and creation itself.

But here’s what I also know. It’s something I learned from reading the Bible in community over many years: The Spirit of God is doing his work. There is hope on the horizon of our life and our world. Creation waits in eager expectation for what the Bible calls New Creation.

Through the self-giving love of Jesus on the cross and by the power of the Spirit that raised him from the dead, we are moving toward a final ending and a fresh beginning.

John writes in Revelation 21, with pastoral and prophetic wonder, the vision given from the revelation of Jesus. Scripture records,

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away… He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”

Here’s where we’re going, friends! There will be an end to frustration and futility. There will be a closing call to all crying and pain. There will be a dynamic and final eradication of evil and death.

What an ending!

And, what a beginning.

You see, a new garden of sorts will be planted that day. It will be a Garden city full of new tasks, projects, possibilities, and delight. All things will begin, again, but in fresh and glorious form. All things will again be full of beauty and potential, bursting with the generative life given by God.

The true Master Gardener, God himself, will be with us and restore to us our call to cultivate that garden, to expand its expression, and draw out its form and function as we reflect his character in the new creation. All things will be new.

But let us not forget that through the resurrection of Jesus new creation has begun! Elsewhere in the scriptures, Paul writes “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Through you and me and the church the Spirit of God is bringing heaven to earth through the transformed lives of faithful followers of the Lamb of God. Are you in Christ? New creation! Yes, it’s begun.

So for now, in our front yard, Amber and I will continue to garden our flower beds and wait patiently for photosynthesis to do its work.

And for now, in our hurting world, we will continue to pick up our spiritual shovel and dirt rake and trowel to do the holy work of cultivating glimpses of shalom in our lost and hurting world.

And we will wait. We will wait in eager expectation. Yes, even more, we will wait in defiant hope for the return of Jesus and the renewal of creation.

IBC, may we be an Easter people who follow the Lamb, King Jesus, in lives marked by self-giving love.

In Christ, new creation,

Jared

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