Earth is heaven’s Garden!
Reading: Mark 4: 26-34
It might not be a new thought, but it was new to me during the week, and I hope it will be as encouraging for you as it is to me. The thought was that, “The earth is heaven’s garden and God is the Gardener…”
You won’t find a better garden at the Royal Chelsea Flower Show, or anywhere else, and there are no tickets on sale for public viewing. It is by invitation only that you can visit and, to be honest, I don’t notice a lot of people in a hurry to accept the invitation. Not many people are rushing to the entrance, probably because once in they think there is no exit! Or it could be that the price is too high to pay for most people! It’s so beautiful though that you won’t want to leave when you see it — and it’s worth the cost.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is like: a garden that grows from seeds scattered by the Gardener and emerges from the hidden places of the earth to produce a paradise of flowers and trees as a home from which the birds can sing.
The Garden of heaven becomes a place filled with life as butterflies and dragonflies, the birds and the bees feed from the flowers and with their multi-coloured wings bring beauty to the Paradise.
I remember the story I have often told at funeral services of water bugs and dragonflies that encourages us to see a better life beyond death, and I would add caterpillars and butterflies to the picture in heaven’s garden.
Another variation of the story is of God sitting on the edge of a pond, feet dangling in the cool water, with eyes staring into the depths of the murky water and a dragonfly balanced on the edge of one hand.
God talks to the dragonfly and asks: “Can you see all those water bugs in the mess below?”
“Yes!” says the dragonfly, “but they can’t see this beautiful garden from where they are!”
“Or how beautiful they will become with hope and faith,” adds God with a smile. “Like you!”
“The truth is hidden until it reveals itself and we don’t know how it happens,” added the dragonfly.
“That’s faith when you live with hope without knowing what you will find,” added God before waving a hand to send the dragonfly fluttering away on wings of beauty into the sky.
When we sow seeds in our garden, or in a field, we don’t know how much will grow, or even what unless we have a packet from the garden centre that tells us what to do and what should grow. With patient nurturing and by following the instructions the harvest will come, or flowers and trees will slowly appear.
Paul says to the Church in Corinth “you are the field” (1 Corinthians 3: 9) and Jesus tells us to see “how the grass clothes the fields” and “how the lilies grow.” (Matthew 6: 28-30). In another parable Jesus pictures the world as a field from which the Kingdom of heaven is sown with good seed, but while we sleep the enemy will sow weed to ruin the harvest.
A lot of weeds are being sown because of our neglect of the earth we inhabit and we needed to wake up a long time ago to prevent the beauty of the garden from being overwhelmed. Now we’ve got a big job of clearing weeds before we can restore all that was good in the beginning.
The Kingdom of God is that beautiful garden from the beginning of time with God as the Gardener who scattered the seeds to produce beautiful flowers, or a harvest from the fields, and planted trees with different fruits for people to choose from. It’s a simple choice between life that is good and beautiful from the seeds scattered by our Gardener or the weeds sown by the enemy as we sleep.
We can invest a lot of time and energy into the gardening — or Virginia can — but the great mystery is where those weeds come from. We certainly didn’t plant them, did we? I wonder how many good seeds from the packet have been scattered but weeds have choked them?
The focus in Mark’s gospel is on the mystery of how the seed emerges from its hiding place to produce something wonderful, or how the kingdom of God grows from something small to become so large and tall. From invisible mustard seed planted by the Gardener to become a home where the birds of the air can shelter, but we can’t count how many didn’t grow!
For a carpenter by trade Jesus has a lot to say about farming, or gardening, and encourages the scattering of seeds but also warns to watch out for the sower of weeds. (Matthew 13: 24) The Kingdom of heaven is not something built or constructed by human hand, but grows silently and mysteriously — and we don’t know how.
This was most profoundly illustrated for me on a visit to the Turkana desert in Northern Kenya when one day we went to sleep surrounded by sand, but woke up to a sea of green following some overnight rain. Our Gardener has scattered seeds deep within the heart of the earth and with some water produces a heavenly garden — and we don’t know how or when it will become visible!
There is a gem of encouragement from this hidden growth in that you never know when your ministry among people will bear fruit so never give up. Something is happening because of your constant watering and you won’t see it until it pushes through the earth to reveal itself. I thought I would never see the day when my friend, child, partner or neighbour would flower like that!
The Holy Spirit works with that same element of surprise and mystery, blowing wherever it pleases and you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. (John 3: 8) This Spirit speaks from within you when you are lost for words (Matthew 10: 20) and the kingdom isn’t for seeking here or there, but is for finding in you. (Luke 17: 20-21) Or, for finding in someone else.
YOU are the seed and can grow to become a beautiful flower in heaven’s garden or a tree providing shelter for God’s awesome creation because the seed is the ‘image’ God made from the beginning to produce everything that is good. The seed is the Word the Gardener scatters on the earth for heaven’s garden to grow and the Word became flesh to grow among us. The perfect Seed growing unseen from the earth to produce the Garden of heaven. This is what we can do; the will of God for us to be the seed that helps heaven’s garden grow on earth.
This is what we pray to do and commit ourselves to being, but God has enemies who sow the weeds of temptation and distraction and we don’t know when or how they come to cause destruction. Jesus encourages us to recognise that we are the seed being scattered by the Gardener, but do we see how shallow our faith can be; how rootless in times of trouble or how easily we can be choked by the worries of life?
We see the little bits of good that emerge from the hidden places, but we can be so much more if we are awake to the enemy sowing weeds among our seeds. Our Gardener in heaven is scattering seeds to produce a beautiful garden on earth, but there is an enemy sowing weeds.
I am seeing it everyday in myself and in the best of people around me as the weeds of anger, greed, fear, pride, and so much else, are choking the life in God’s garden so that the flowers don’t grow and birds lose their shelter as the trees are chopped down.
You — we — are the seeds of Christ in human flesh with all the amazing potential to produce a garden in God’s image, but the enemy is choking the life out of so much that is good. We can produce patches of garden, but have the opportunity for it to reach further, higher and wider if we protect against the sower of weeds who gets among the good to prevent the seeds from multiplying.
Jesus is the one single seed that fell to the ground and died so that he would multiply and save the world, but if we root ourselves to the life of the world we will lose our lives to the enemy rather than overcome him. My interpretation of John 12: 24-26.
In psalm 92 we can read of life lived joyfully with God, responding with songs of thanksgiving and flourishing with the strength that God gives. Cedars in Lebanon grow tall and are the most commanding of trees providing a majestic habitat — at least they did before deforestation. These wonderful trees are contrasted with the quick growing grass of the wicked and foolish. A life lived in harmony with God is ‘always green’ and continues to bear fruit — but are WE the seeds being scattered by the Gardener to become heaven’s garden on earth or is the sower of the weeds delaying the kingdom from coming?
Don’t let the Sower of weeds sneak into your life, but be one of those seeds scattered by the Gardener that grows into a flower or a tree in the garden of heaven.