Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Garden of Worship

Standing on the south ridge, looking northward over the rolling hills and the creek winding through the bottomland of our property, one consuming desire arises within my heart -- to make it a garden of praise to God -- a place in which every effort is worshipful. I have always believed that work could be worship, but never have I seen it so clearly as when I consider how to shape our land to reflect God's glory.

A garden is a heritage of worship to God that we pass on to the next generation. Long after we are gone, if it is planted and tended well, its life will praise His name. It declares our appreciation of all God's creation. It declares a commitment to pursue a godly heritage for our children. It rejoices in the fruit and the flowers and the grain. It humbly expresses our dependence on God's grace for our daily bread. And, as we worship God in the garden, our praise is not hidden. It can be seen and appreciated by every passerby.

Those with heaven-bound eyes will look on our garden and see an act of praise. Those with earth-bound eyes may only see it as the beautiful but obsessive preoccupation of reality-escape artists. But no matter how they view it, it will bless and inspire nearly everyone and, perhaps, feed more than a few during lean times.

A garden positions us in agreement with the stewardship responsibility God has placed on the human race. It recognizes that mankind was created suitable to this worshipful brand of labor -- to responsibly till the ground and cultivate its wildness. It recognizes both the limits of our temporal nature and the limitlessness of our generational duty. A garden bridges the span between today and tomorrow in a living way.

Cultivating life in a garden is more than a mission. It's a lifestyle birthed in reverence for God. Inseparable from the Divine genesis that first displayed nature's glory or from the redemption that restores it, the cultivation of life is a holy pursuit. Enjoined continuously by mankind from the beginning of time, cultivation is also likely to be part of our eternal destiny -- an eternity that forever celebrates life.

What better place and what better way to celebrate life than to engage as a family in the cultivation of a garden? In this occupation, we feed our children, strengthen their frames for useful labor, and teach them the essential principles of life that all creation shares. In this occupation, we discover together, as family, the wonders of nature and of nature's God. In this occupation, as we all pass through the seasons of life together, we learn to become neighbors willing to help neighbors in need. In this occupation, our genius is bent toward creating implements for the cultivation of life rather than instruments of war.

A garden is a good place from which to worship God and, perhaps, that is why God first placed mankind there (Genesis 2:8). It was in this garden that mankind said to God, 'Not Thy will but mine be done." (Genesis 3:1-6) It was from a garden that God chose to initiate redemption -- the Garden of Gethsemane -- where Jesus prayed, "not My will but Yours be done" (Luke 22:43) and where Jesus was betrayed into the hands of sinful men. And, finally, a garden is part of the consummate venue of God's redemptive plan. Perhaps, that is why much of our most inspiring eschatological Scripture points toward the liberation of creation from its man-engendered corruption (Isaiah 2:4, 35:1-10, 51:3, 55:12-13, 65:21-22, Jeremiah 31:10-14, Ezekiel 36:33-36, 47:6-12, Joel 2:18-27, Amos 9:13-15, Micah 4:1-4, Zechariah 3:10, Romans 8:18-22, Revelation 2:7, 22:1-3).

If there is a garden aspect in heaven, to which mankind is redeemed, I think I would prefer that occupation as the venue of my worship. I would thrill to be a co-laborer with God in the cultivation of life. My faltering contemporary steps toward a more agrarian lifestyle, as clumsy and childlike as they are, are a worshipful, anticipatory attempt to position my heart for that heavenly occupation.

I think a garden is and should be an act of worship toward God. I think a garden passes on a heritage of worship to our children. I think gardens can feed a world increasingly desperate for redemption. I think a garden is the ideal place for the heart of a man to reconnect to the heart of God.

Michael Hennen

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