The Easter Garden

Our Lenten reflections usually begin with Jesus in a wilderness. This year, this image has been particularly appropriate, as through Living Lent we have thought about the ways our climate is in crisis.

However, as we draw closer to Easter, this barren setting is replaced with something filled with more life – a garden.

In the narratives of Holy Week, Jesus can be found twice in a garden: first, the garden of Gethsemane, where he goes with friends to pray and is arrested, and finally in the garden by the tomb, where he appears to Mary Magdalene in his resurrection.

In Gethsemane, we witness a garden of lament. Here Jesus cries out to God, asking for the inevitable events of his death to be taken away. In this garden, Jesus anticipates the brokenness of creation – the destruction of God’s sign of love to his creation at the hands of his own people.

In popular imagination, this moment tends to be seen in darkness, probably because it takes place after Jesus shares supper with his friends. Under the cover of night, Jesus turns to lament in the brokenness and corruption of creation.

Following the events of Jesus’ betrayal, trial and death, the story returns to a garden, this time by the tomb in which Jesus is laid. In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene finds herself here at the break of the morning. As the sun is rising, she is confronted with an empty tomb, an angelic host and finally, the resurrected Christ. Here, Mary finds herself next to Jesus, in a garden of new and resurrected life.

In a rather ironic turn of events, in John’s account Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener. And to extend the metaphor, so he is: in this garden, Jesus’ resurrection has begun the process of restoration, the journey of creation back to the full life in which it was created. By the end of the Easter story, the garden has turned from dark to light, to become a place of life and flourishing – of resurrection.

The renewal and restoration of creation we have sought throughout Living Lent is captured in these garden narratives.

As we respond to the climate crisis, we face a creation in which we lament. We see the brokenness of God’s earth; destruction which has come at the hands of humanity – our own. We recognise a creation in darkness, longing for redemption.

Yet, as we have journeyed towards Easter, we have also been called to look towards the garden of restoration. We have journeyed with the knowledge that our destination is the garden found at the break of morning light, bathed in the glow of new life. We have recognised that the journey of lament, while necessary in recognising the place in which we find ourselves, is not the end of the story.

In recognising this hope, we have responded to a call to step in and welcome God’s promise of restoration. Like Mary, we don’t do this passively but by actively seeking out Jesus within the restored creation.

Another instance in which the garden is seen in the biblical narrative seems to sum this up very well. In Isaiah 58, we read:

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in the sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.”

God’s people are called to seek justice, to restore the oppressed and to live a life which feeds the hungry. As a consequence, they are promised a land which thrives, a restoration of creation which sees new light and living water. In Isaiah’s vision of recreation, seeking justice and the restoration of the earth are one and the same.

Call to Action:

Since the middle ages, it has been tradition for church communities to create an ‘Easter garden’ during Holy Week. This is often made on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, and kept up until the end of Easter week. After Lent, where most churches don’t use flowers or much decoration, this has been used as a sign of new life. They often include plants and flowers, and have a cross, or stone or pot to represent the empty tomb,
as a focal point.

This week, why not create your own Easter garden? You could use this as an exercise in mindfulness, or ‘soulfulness’, a process through which to reflect on what you’ve learnt through your Living Lent. Using your hands to create something physical, especially in the repetitive and careful process of handling plants, offers a chance to use your body and mind together to reflect.

If you have a garden, allotment or even a church garden you could make it outside, rearranging some plants and cuttings. Alternatively, you could make it inside, in a plant pot or window box. This could be a good way to bring some new life into your home, as a reminder of our commitment to step into the renewal of creation.

You might not feel able, or have access to buy new plants. Alternatively, you could buy some seeds, which can often be a bit cheaper. Indoors, sunflowers, petunia seeds, marigolds and nasturtiums are good to grow at this time of year. Outdoors, wildflower seeds, sweet peas, poppies and lots of vegetables will do well!

As you create your Easter garden, reflect on God’s gift of creation.

How do you celebrate God’s creation in your day to day life?
How does your lifestyle have a negative impact on creation?
What have you discovered through your commitment to change your lifestyle this Living Lent?
How does your relationship to creation have an impact on your relationship with God?

Send us pictures of your Easter garden, and tell us about how you reflected whilst making it. Tweet us @livinglent2019, share on our facebook community group or through the community pages of the Living Lent Website.

Hannah Brown is the JPIT Intern for 2018-19. Her role involves managing JPIT’s social media, working with the Peace and Justice Forum and collaborating with the team to research and communicate key areas of JPIT’s workplan. She recently graduated from the University of Nottingham where she studied English Language and Literature. She has a background in local church partnership and engagement.