Last summer our local newspaper featured an article about urban farming in the Cincinnati area. It described how people began growing gardens in various locations throughout the city, not only as a hobby but also as a way to provide additional food.
One man was rather philosophical about gardening. “I started seeing how gardening made people happy,” he said, “how it started changing the whole community, and it just took my heart.” Then he added, “In a garden, you control your own destiny.”
That last statement, to use gardening language, deserves some cultivation. It brings to mind two important gardens in the Bible.
One is the Garden of Eden. God had told Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Adam and his wife Eve were given the freedom of choice; they controlled their own destiny in that garden. But they yielded to the serpent’s deceiving words, believed his lies, and found themselves eventually evicted from their home.
The other garden is the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus, the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), prayed with a passion and an anguish that we as humans cannot begin to grasp. He wrestled with the path that lay ahead for him: “Abba, Father, . . . everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” But in the end he let his Father control his destiny; he submitted himself to the Father and prayed the prayer that led to Calvary: “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
An old nursery rhyme begins, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Communion is a time for each of us to ask, “How does my garden grow—the garden of my life?” All who garden must confront the threat of weeds on a consistent basis or before long the weeds will take over.
At Communion, we have the opportunity to let the Master Gardener go to work—to help us face and confess the weeds in our lives that grow when we become contrary. It’s also a time to ask for the water of God’s Spirit to renew us, revive us, and empower us for the week to come, and to give us the resolve to pray each day, “Not what I will, but what you will.”
Doug Redford is professor of Old Testament at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University.