What Easter means to me this year

Easter is a few days away. Each year, I find myself asking, “What does Easter mean to me this year?” Each year, the Easter story has its own way of speaking. This year, the imagery of a garden comes to mind as the focus image.

Jesus was buried in a garden tomb. It makes me think about my own burial. I’ve never thought much about where I would be buried. I don’t have a plot picked out. I probably should. I recall one of my earliest jobs as a high schooler. I helped lay tombstone. It was hot, hard work, especially in Jackson, GA in the summer. Ralph Wilson was a great first boss. He owned the company. He’d always always take us out to a big lunch. You could always count on him to pay. (although it’s hard to work after you eat fried catfish, his favorite meal). I’ve tried to replicate his kindness to others as now I manage staff.

It was grueling work. But honestly, as crazy as it sounds, graveyards can be beautiful places. When we would set headstones, most of them included a flower pot. On several occasions I recall family members of the deceased pull up in the car to see our work. You could tell they had waited anxiously to witness the headstone in place. Whenever we installed a headstone, we would sweep it to make the sure the family had a good first impression. On many occasions, I watched as a spouse or child brought flowers for the pots. Many other times, I observed loved ones visiting other plots to change out the flowers for the season. It was always a beautiful gesture and a nice moment to break from shoveling the hard red clay.

Flowers evoke life. Fragile, temporal flowers stand in quite the contrast to heavy stone that must be placed with machinery.  Even with the flowers, I still get eery walking through a graveyard. But still, I’m glad they’re there. Graveyard flowers help remind us of life in the midst of death.

In John’s account of the resurrection, Mary mistakes the risen Jesus for the gardener. Although I haven’t done the research, I assume there were people entrusted to grow and nurture the flowers around the rock tombs. I assume they came early in the morning to water and trim before the heat set in.

Was Mary wrong? Could it be that Jesus, the risen savior, is the keeper of God’s new garden? It makes sense. Life began in a garden in Eden. Adam and Eve shared the duties of gardening in the early morning. They tilled and toiled. It was a place of purpose and innocence and a harmonic creation. But the garden is also where our first parents fell from grace. It was in the first garden that death entered the world through heir disobedience. As John Milton wrote about the fall in Paradise Lost,

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.
In the same garden where life began, death was also born. It makes sense that Jesus is the new gardener to care for this new creation that has been redeemed by our Lord Jesus. The resurrection has helped us regain Eden.
The garden is part of our story. God entrusted us with life and with the lives of our neighbors. But there are times we have screwed up this garden. We have sown seeds of deceit and hate. We have allowed the weeds of our pride get in the way of God’s purposes. We have neglected to tend to the vulnerable people of our world and they have wilted from our lack of care. We continually make a mess of God’s garden. That’s why need our resurrected Lord as our gardener.

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