The Bible Starts in A Garden

The bible starts in a garden, but it ends in a city.

All the way from the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the New Jerusalem that John sees in the Revelation, one of the really cool things about the Bible is that if you know where a Bible story takes place, generally you can guess some of the major themes of the story.

If someone is on a mountaintop, generally they’re going to be having an encounter with God- like Moses on Mt. Sinai, Elijah and the still small voice of God, or the disciples and Jesus’ transfiguration.

Bible stories based around the city are probably about the difficulty of us living out God’s dream with each other- The Tower of Babel, or some the encounters in Jerusalem that Jesus has with the Pharisees.

And if its in a garden, the story is going to be about new beginnings.

Today’s story, of Mary Magdalene encountering Jesus in the Garden, comes almost at the end of the Gospel of John, which normally might lead us to think that it might represent an ending. But then the garden reminds us that this is really about a new beginning.

It represents a new beginning to the Christian story, to God’s story, one that proclaims hope in the midst of hardship, conviction in the midst of desperation, and resurrection in the midst of death.

It’s a message that is sorely needed today.  We live in a culture steeped in confusion and doubt, some of it rightly earned, about almost every aspect of our lives.

Too easily, we can fall into patterns where irony takes the place of joy, cynicism overrules idealism, and we insist on false fronts instead of accepting people for their authentic whole selves.

I know I fall into these patterns on my bad days.  Probably on my good days too.

Which is a part of why I am and need to be a Christian, of why I need the story of Mary in the Garden.

Just like Mary, Jesus helps me be the person that God needs me to be.

But this story of Mary in the Garden also reminds us that Christianity is not a religion just of gardens, a purely personal and spiritual religion that produces no fruit and that stands for nothing.

For when Jesus tells Mary that she cannot hold him, but rather must share the news with the disciples, this reminds us that that Christianity is a team sport. The Gospel is not meant to be done solo.

The Gospel is to be done in coffee hours and the blessedly awkward conversations that we have every week with folks we otherwise might never meet.

The Gospel  is to be done in hospital waiting rooms sitting silently with a friend or a loved one, hoping that a surgery goes well.

The Gospel is to be done in town halls, city council meetings, and on the streets, standing up for the poor when no one else will.

So let us not just be Christians in the Garden, where the beauty of God is readily apparent, but in the city too, where even if we need to look a little bit, it’s right there too.