|Pentecost 15, Year B||September 6, 2015||Proper 18, Year B||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration||August 16, 2015||Pentecost 12, Proper 15||Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 9, 2015||Proper 14, Year B||Ephesians 4:25-5:2|
|Pentecost 10, Year B||August 2, 2015||Proper 13, Year B||Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 19, 2015||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 12, 2015||Pentecost 7, Year B||Ephesians 1:3-14|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 5, 2015||Proper 9, Year B||Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Pentecost 5, Year B||June 28, 2015||Proper 8, Year B||Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30|
|Pentecost 4, Year B||June 21, 2015||Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B||2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41|
|Pentecost 3, Year B||June 14, 2015||The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6||2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34|
|➤Pentecost 2, Year B||June 7, 2015||The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5||Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35|
|Pentecost 1, Year B -Trinity Sunday||May 31, 2015||Pentecost 1, Year B, Trinity Sunday||Isaiah 6:1-8,Psalm 29,Romans 8:12-17,John 3:1-17|
|Easter 7, Year B||May 17, 2015||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 17:6-19|
|Easter 6, Rogation Sunday, Year B||May 10, 2015||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday||Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Mark 4:26-32|
|Easter 4, Year B||April 26, 2015||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B||I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18|
Pentecost 2, Year B
Sermon Date:June 7, 2015
Scripture: Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35
Liturgy Calendar: The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5
"Creation – God Calls Adam and Eve to Account for their Sin"- Palermo, 12th century
We’re fascinated by gardens.
Proof of that is Historic Garden Week in Virginia. During Garden Week this year, over one thousand people from all over the country visited Port Royal in order to tour the Heimbach’s and the Long’s homes, which were beautifully decked out with flower arrangements put together by the members of the Garden Club of Virginia.
Historic Garden Week in Virginia has been going on since 1929, and in that time, according to their website, The Garden Club of Virginia has made over 17 million dollars “toward the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic public gardens.”
I’m still trying to find the time to read Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation. In her book, Andrea Wulf tells us that “for the founding fathers, gardening, agriculture, and botany were elemental passions, as deeply ingrained in their characters as their belief in liberty for the nation they were creating.”
Wulf says that not only did the founding fathers “create the United States in a political sense, they had also understood the importance of nature for their county. The American landscape, forests, soil and plants made the nation. Nature was the backbone to her economy, feeding, clothing and sheltering the people. The United States was a republic of farmers, and the opening of the West extended the vision of an agrarian people across a whole continent. At the same time the vast landscapes and stately forests became monuments of the country’s national identity.”
Toward the end of her book, Wulf quotes a magazine article from 1819 which points out that when Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison retired, ‘they returned to their private lives to promote agriculture, botany and other useful science that added “’to the welfare of their country and of mankind in general.’” In no other country would heads of state follow this path.
Gardening must be part of our American cultural DNA.
And gardening is certainly part of our spiritual DNA.
The very beginning of the relationship between human beings and God takes place in the Garden of Eden, the garden that God created, and made to grow there every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and a river to water the garden. And God put the man in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
The opening sentence of today’s Old Testament reading places God in this garden, which is sacred space, because God has lovingly created it and God is present there.
“The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD GOD walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze.”
God, “not in some heaven, light years away,” as Marty Haugen puts it so poetically in the hymn, “Gather us In,” but God is present at the time of the evening breeze, walking in the garden.
And God is seeking the man and the woman.
“Where are you?” God calls out.
My guess is that God and the man and the woman until that point had enjoyed a close and loving relationship which of course had now been broken by the disobedience of the man and the woman, and so they were hiding.
And God’s reaction to their hiding reveals something very important about God’s dealing with us.
God is always seeking after us.
Even though God knows that the perfection of this beloved garden has now been destroyed, God does not leave in anger, deserting the man and the woman.
Instead, God comes to the man and the woman even though they have blown it by being disobedient.
God does not ever forsake us.
This is something the Psalmist knows as he calls to the Lord,
“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord, Lord, hear my voice.”
The psalmist knows, that even in the depths of despair and the alienation of sin that God is seeking him, and so he calls.
Here I am, Lord, in my misery.
Because with you, Lord, there is mercy and plenteous redemption.
The apostle Paul is also aware that in this world, broken apart by sin and our ongoing choices that make us want to hide from God, that God continues to seek us.
And, along with the fact that God is always seeking us, that God is merciful and full of plenteous redemption, Paul tells us that God is also full of grace.
What exactly is grace? We talk about it all the time.
According to the dictionary, grace is the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. But grace is also the spirit of God operating in us. And grace is also that word that means the elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action, the beauty of form that fills us when we are full of God’s love.
Paul tells us that even as our outer natures waste away, our supremely merciful God is constantly renewing us, day by day. This is not a one time BOOM! You’ve been saved event. Instead, Paul reminds us that God’s mercy is like an everflowing stream of water—“streams of mercy never ceasing, ” ongoing redemption. God’s streams of mercy are always available to us because God loves us so much and God wants that love to constantly wash over us and through us.
And God’s intent is the coming of the new age, of which we can only at this moment see glimmers in the world around us, because the sin and the alienation that we continue to choose cloud our vision and keep us in hiding.
But in the new age of our completed redemption, when we’ve been raised into the presence of Jesus, we will experience the weight of glory, an unimaginable abundance of glory.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who was put to death by the Third Reich right before its fall, says that theology should aim to “preserve God’s wonder as wonder, to understand, to defend, to glorify God’s mystery as mystery.”
But Bonhoeffer also goes on to say that within the mystery of God is Jesus. And “Christ takes everyone who really encounters him by the shoulder, turning them around to face their fellow human beings and the world.”
In Jesus, God comes to dwell with us in this earthly garden, in spite of the fact that we have done much to destroy God’s good creation.
In Jesus, God takes up residence with us. Jesus walks with us through our days. And Jesus looks for us when we go wander away or hide.
Jesus brings with him the new age of redemption, the weight of glory, the abundance of glory, fulfilled, here and now—doing battle against the things that send us into hiding—battling the demons of sin and sickness, and death itself, so that we can be free once more to live as members of God’s family.
Jesus wants us to have the audacity to stop being ashamed and to come out of hiding, to gather around him, to eat with him, to listen to him, and with his help, to do God’s will.
Because when we gather around Jesus and do God’s will, we become the family of God.
When the time is at last fulfilled, and the kingdom of God at last comes down to earth, and the home of God is among mortals, the author of Revelation tells us that at the center of the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God to earth, is a garden.
And flowing through the center of this garden is the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, an unceasing river of mercy.
And on either side of this river are the fruit trees of life, with their leaves for the healing of the nations, an urban garden, a healing place with water and trees and shade and rest and unending new life in the presence of God.
This season of Pentecost, this season of green, new growth, gives us time.
Time to come out of hiding, time to gather round Jesus and listen, and with God’s grace, mercy, power and glory, to enter into untold opportunities to do God’s will.
And when we do God’s will, by loving God with our whole hearts and souls and strength and minds, and when we love one another as God has loved us, and when we care for God’s creation as the sacred space that God made it to be, God won’t have to be calling out,
“Where are you?”
because we’ll be walking with God,
walking with God at the time of the evening breeze on this beautiful earth, in this garden full of abundant life that God has created to enfold us in the splendor and weight of God’s own glory.
Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2011.
Haugen, Marty. “Gather us in.” in With One Voice: A Lutheran Resource for Worship. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1995.
Marsh, Charles. Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2014.