I want to invite you on a journey for the next three weeks.
More specifically, I want to invite you into a story of three gardens. In all of the wondrous rolling vista of the scriptures, these three gardens are unique places where decisions were made and history was written… where eternal love was expressed in Creation, where human suffering and shame was taken on by a man who was also God, and where an earth shattering turn in the tale changed everything, for everyone, forever.
It’s a beautiful, but painful, story. It begins with great joy and travels through great heartache, but it ends, as all good stories do, with a hero saving the ones He loves. And then it begins a new story altogether… one that you and I are still experiencing as we live our daily lives transformed by the greatest sacrifice the world will ever know.
As we approach Easter, we want to take these days to prepare our hearts to celebrate that heroic sacrifice of Jesus. But more than that, we will get to dive deeper into His love as we recount the story together. So we’ll have 15 instalments in this story of three gardens, all designed to be a brief read and reflection to start your working day, while giving you space to relax on the weekend before we come to worship and enjoy Jesus together on Sunday.
Gardens are a special place… they can be perfectly manicured and controlled or wild and riotous with colour and life. They are a place of sights, sounds, and glorious smells, often filled with laughter and play, but sometimes marked by the silence of sadness and remembrance. They may be large or small, they may honour achievements or history, they may be public or private, but they all share one common theme: life.
Gardens are places that show off life itself… from the rich earth that holds a tiny seedling to a mighty willow tree that shades a quiet corner… from the beautiful colours of the flowers that appear in spring to the bright ochre shades of the leaves that fall in autumn… from the green Irish grass of the summer to the cold bare ground of the winter… yes, even then, life is at work in a garden.
Our story will take us through the beginning of life, through a bitter winter of suffering, and end (begin) in an extraordinary resurrection moment… a thread that began in the first Garden and came into full view in the last one.
It’s always at this time of year that I begin to imagine what my garden will look like in a few months. Winter has done its worst, and as I look out my back doors, my garden looks tired and beaten. The colours are muted, the flowerbeds astray, the lawn almost anaemic with the effects of the coldest season. But I know that under the ground, there are seeds waiting for the sun. I know there are bulbs in the corner patch that will rise again when the mercury in my thermometer does. I know that life has not been beaten, and that even the death of so many plants in the winter will make a way for new life when the cold winds finally cease.
Easter is the moment we remember the springtime of all humanity… that just when it seemed our garden was destroyed, beyond repair, covered with death and shame, the sun returned and life burst out of the grave. And as we enter this season, we get to once again embrace the life of Jesus, even as we journey His death for us.
So together, let’s come and see…