Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Gardener, Garden and God

December 13, 2020
Martin Baker

13 December 2020        Gardener, Garden and God       Martin Baker

Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11

61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

   because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

   to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

   and release to the prisoners;

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

   and the day of vengeance of our God;

   to comfort all who mourn;

3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

   to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

   the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,

   they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

   the devastations of many generations.

8 For I the Lord love justice,

   I hate robbery and wrongdoing;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,

   and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,

   and their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge

   that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

   my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

   he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

   and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

   and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise

   to spring up before all the nations.

See if you can remember for a moment, something you have been wanting for a very long time. And you think, if you had that thing, life would be so much better. I am sure I would be happier.

And I can think of, for me, a bike, a motorbike, a bigger motorbike, passing exams, finding someone, anyone who would go with me to the high school ball , getting a car,  wife, children, boat.  Most of those things I imagined or thought about,  before they happened.

Of course I don’t mean equating the value of getting my first motorbike with the dreams I had for finding my wife,  Sandy, or having children. They’re exponentially different.  

But the point I am making is that you imagine these thing, yearn for these things perhaps, before they happen. And you imagine what life would be like - that your life has changed in a particular way for the better once that happened.

The quest at the Lotto counter, the dream of home ownership, the freedoms I hear people talk about as they imagine retirement.

Some of those dreams and imaginings are noble and good and lead us to do great things  - but some are pretty scungy. Just think of all those people who have affairs believing that somehow that will improve their life.

And the thing that comes from our reading today. Isaiah is speaking to a people who are seeing a hope fulfilled.

But there is a kind of catch in this.   You have yearend for this to happen, and now it has happened.  And you discover that the problems and issues you had before that happened are still with you after that event.

The dreams I had about getting a car. Then  having a stream of really unreliable cars means that I am forever waiting and kind of expecting that any car I am in now will break down at some very inconvenient moment. That thing you hoped for and it doesn’t quite work out.

So today, far more serious, the people who Isaiah have been speaking to, have dreamed about restoration. They have dreamed about coming back to their homeland, back to Jerusalem, back to their lives as people told them how good it used to be.

We are facing that time ourselves a little, when we have the first hint that the season of the corona virus might eventually be coming to an end.

Will we then make changes in the way we work? Will we make more time for our children? Will we take steps to reduce environmental pollution?  Will we spend more time enjoying the people and places around us?

Anyway the people in our reading who Isaiah is speaking to have got what they dreamed and what they wanted. Back to Jerusalem after everything was lost. And they have found that things still aren’t right. They are still broken hearted.

61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

   because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

   to bind up the broken-hearted,

Bind up the Broken-hearted.

The ancient Hebrew people didn’t really have a word for the pink stuff in our heads, our brains.  They saw the heart as the source of not only feelings but thoughts and logic.

We have that phrase – what is your heart telling you, or being led by my heart and not my head,  but back then people would not have been at all clear what you mean by that? Still today many cultures do not make the head and heart separation.

Heart and mind were inseparable.

To be broken hearted. And the Hebrew for break is shavar. It is a word that was usually applied to a broken spade or spear or bones. They were no longer able to be used for their purpose anymore.

I drove over my broom a few weeks ago. In the car. It is now useless, it is well and truly shavared.

Shavar and lave for heart.  To be broken-hearted it is about something going wrong with our very sense of being, our sense of place, purpose, belonging, identity.  If I am broken hearted my behaviour and my thinking will not be right.  

Isaiah might look on aspects of our society and conclude that there is a profound need to bind up the broken-hearted.

Remember too that this is the very passage that Jesus began his ministry with in Luke Chapter 4

He read the words

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

   because he has anointed me

   to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

   and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

To confront our circumstances. Broken hearted, without sight, poor imprisoned. These are real things. Our scripture has very little time for abstractions.

And across all these circumstances , Isaiah and Jesus speak a word of hope.

3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

   to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

   the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

The planting of the Lord

I remember many  summers ago  at Great Barrier,  I went over and talked to our neighbour Allan who was a very good gardener. He’s no longer with us now.   Though there is now a seat on the beach engraved to his memory.  He would share lettuces and herbs with all his neighbours.  And I remember going over there and he was planting some seeds that  looked quite unfamiliar.  He had this smile on his face. And I said what are you planting there. And he said  Kauri seeds.  He had  the smile he had on.  A kauri tree planting smile.  That crazy smile.

And we have this phrase today to tell us what is on God’s mind.  For the broken-hearted and oppressed. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

God the planter of seeds. The gardener. We might not be able to fix things, but to have faith and trust in the tree seed planting God.  To look for where the seeds are being planted today.  This bright little Valerie. The hopes we have in this little girl.

But those of us, and especially those of us where things maybe haven’t entirely worked out, to look and see where God as the gardener might be working and sowing.

And the interesting thing about this passage, is that there is a little twist in its tail

We go from the image of God being the planter of seeds to this:

11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

   and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise

   to spring up before all the nations.

The image shifts from God as the planter of seeds to God as the garden. The garden causes what is sown to spring up the Lord God caused righteousness  and praise to spring up before the nations.

My wife Sandy helps make school lunches for a decile 1 school not that far from here. And she speaks to me about the joy on those children’s faces,  the happiness they experience when they discover that someone has done something for them because of who they are.  (Louise knows all about this) They encounter this grace which feeds them in many different sorts of ways.

The grounding of our lives in God’s garden of grace.

We think today about the best environment that will nurture Valerie, we think about the love and care shown by Louise and Conrad in his medical work.  

And we know it is never just a matter of prescribing the right medicine or providing a good maths lesson. But the encounter with someone who cares, who takes an interest, who sees potential in another. This little seed and this great oak.

Isaiah today is speaking to those who have lost their way, who see little future, who are damaged and hurt. Disillusioned.  

And he speaks to them about a tiny seed. And he says they, you will be called oaks of righteousness.

Look for the seeds that have been planted.

Isaiah is speaking about the hope we find in God’s love

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

   he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

This knowledge of God’s grace and presence provides the ground for our nourishment , for us to grow.

God is not done with any of us.

Even for the broken hearted there is the promise of new life growth healing and hope.

AMEN