In the beginning, writes Genesis.
In the beginning, write John.
Genesis tells us God -spoke- and created all.
John tells us the Word was with God and through the Word all was created.
In Genesis, God is a Gardener. God makes a peaceful garden and places people in it – but people must flee in it tears when they disobey God.
In John, Jesus is mistaken as a gardener. People have fled to this sorrowful garden in tears. Mary leaves it with joy to obey God.
In Exodus to Moses- God says God is the I AM! In John, Jesus repeatedly says “I AM.”
John 6: 35, 48 I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 I am the light of the world
John 10:9 I am the door
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 15:1 I am the true vine
And, John 8: 58 “Before Abraham was, I am”
In this garden, humanity and the Great I AM meet once again. In this graveyard, new life springs forth. In this place of sorrow – unexpected joy is found.
“Resurrection is nothing short of re-creation. That the burial and resurrection of Jesus take place in a garden underscores the Fourth Gospel’s unrelenting commitment to holding the divine and the human together. Death is the reality of life, but resurrection points to the reality of abundant life.” (Karoline Lewis)
The Great I AM wants to recreate with us; wants to begin again; wants to restore our relationship.
Our scriptures, our faith, our God is all about restoring relationships. Today, we read the story of Mary and Jesus meeting, but we also know that this is also a story about humanity and God meeting and beginning again. This time, instead of leaving the garden in anger with each other, humanity and God leave the garden ready to work together.
Now this is all heady – so let’s bring it down to what that really means: it means living into God’s reign now. It means being Christ-like now. It means living that ever-renewing, abundant life now.
You see, people come to Jesus through personal encounters. 1 on 1. It’s 1 on 1 conversation that brings the Samaritan woman to understand Jesus as the Messiah. 1 on 1 debate for Nicodemus at night. 1 on 1 for Zaccheus in the tree. Doubting Thomas will stop doubting when he personally touches Jesus. Saul will turn from persecuting Christians when he personally meets Jesus. It is the personal encounter with Phillip and his faith that converts the Ethiopian man; and it is personal encounters with the disciples – the apostles, the women, all those who witness – that bring the faith in Jesus’ way from a small following of middle eastern men and women to a world religion.
How did you end up here, today? I bet someone personally told you about their faith, and you had a relationship with that someone – a mother, a father, grandparent, good friend, spouse – very, very few people (if any!) come to Christ through scripture alone. This is a faith of relationships. Of personal encounters.
Today – Mary is the first to have a personal encounter with the Risen Christ. And she shares this encounter.
Would you be here today if Mary hadn’t left the garden to tell the Good News?
The Garden of Eden was large, but it wasn’t the entire world. We have a new mission – to spread the Good News everywhere. To plant God’s garden everywhere. You and I are co-gardeners, co-creators, with God. We are tasked with feeding, clothing, and caring for one another. We are tasked with gardening the world – caring for its plants and animals, waters and skies. We are tasked with carrying hope into hopeless situations and responding with love in hateful situations. We are called – by name – to rise from our graves and live the abundant life God offers to us now.
The I AM told the prophet: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Out of everlasting Love, God abides with us. Out of everlasting Love, God builds again. Out of everlasting Love, God bids us to go from the garden and take the good news to all peoples – for all peoples are the children of the great I AM.
I AM is Risen! I AM abides with us. I AM will come again!
Christ is Risen!
Go out and share this beautiful news like a spring flower with all peoples! Amen!