God in the Garden

Wosczyk Wedding

A homily offered at the marriage of Lauren E. Kennedy and Matthew H. Wosczyk on July 14, 2018 at The Church of the Holy Trinity.  The Gospel was Matthew 5:1-10. 

Every once in a while, I meet someone who finds out that I’m a priest and is polite and respectful about what I spend my time doing. But the person will say something along the lines of, “you know, I’ve always felt like I can know God just as well—or better—walking in the woods, sailing on the water, or working in the garden.” I normally surprise such a person by agreeing with them, but then I ask a question.  “What do you do,” I wonder, “when a storm comes?  Where is God for you, then?”

At that point, I usually realize that I’ve done it again. I’ve spoiled a perfectly innocuous conversation by bringing theology into it.

Good things can happen in a garden.  The story of creation itself begins in a garden as God creates people and animals and plants of all kinds, and with each, God steps back and proclaims it all Good. The Song of Solomon uses garden imagery to represent creation, but also in a kind of lush and somewhat erotic way: all that blooms and smells suggests the love between two people, which is just a hint of the love God has for each of us.  Jesus often goes into a garden to pray, to be quiet, to listen for God’s voice, and to learn—as he then shares lessons with others about the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the winds, and the waves. The scripture I just read, known as The Beatitudes, takes place on a hill, probably a lush one, with grass and trees and perhaps water in view.

Gardens are places where one can meet God, for sure, places where the beauty and truth of the Beatitudes seem self-evident.  Until the storm comes.

But faith in God helps us even when the storms come.   Remember there was a storm, of sorts, in that original garden, symbolized by the serpent, Satan, the accuser who is like that little voice inside our heads that always doubts, that always accuses, that tries to ruin every picnic.  But God shows up and promises always to love Adam and Eve—no matter what.

Jesus preaches and prays in gardens, but recall also that on the night before his death, he’s arrested in a garden.  It’s his faith and his connection with God that reminds him that no matter what kind of storm may come—whether the gardens of this world seem to be torn to shreds and every beautiful thing trampled upon—God still IS.  God still is Love.  And God’s love continues forever.

It is no surprise that Lauren and Matt’s wedding follows a garden theme.  Enjoy the flowers. Enjoy the smells, and sounds, and tastes, and the presence of love all around.  But also, never forget that God tends all gardens, and even in the darkness, even when things are tough, even when we feel alone or afraid or like God is busy pulling weeds elsewhere—return to the garden and wait for God.  God will appear and will enfold you in love.

The weeds will grow.  The pests will annoy.  There may be times of drought or what feels like a flood.  But God has grown your love and will tend it with loving care for ever and ever.

Blessings to you, Matt and Lauren; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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