I believe that a lot of Garden of Eden Paintings do us a disservice in that they don’t actually depict gardens. After a cursory glance through google images (as I write this reflection), I notice a lot of Adams and Eves standing in glades, forests, even tropical jungles. Somehow, they don’t seem suffocated by the trees and plants around each of them.
Yet, if we ‘sit’ with the idea of ‘garden’, then a more accurate image emerges as to what is going on as the biblical narrative gets underway: God has drawn forth creation out of chaos and within creation, God draws more order by planting a grand garden.
God creates Adam (Adam meaning “humanity” in Hebrew) to be steward of this garden. He is tasked with bringing order to it, by tending it and naming its inhabitants. We know the rest of the story – humanity quickly rebels; stewardship is not enough! Both stewards are expelled from the garden and thrown into a world of chaos; a chaos that we continue to witness: chaos in nature when disasters strike; chaos in the human heart and so on.
But God does not forsake His people and so the bible gathers up the stories of the ways in which God tries to draw people back into order and peace. This mission of God reaches its summit upon the summit of Golgotha. The thief says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. And Jesus says, “indeed I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise”.
Paradise comes from the Greek word paradeisos, that is, a royal walled garden, typical in ancient Persia. And so humanity, gets invited back into the garden. Think of the saints above who “tend the garden” through their intercessions and miracles. We the baptised too, being part of the communion of saints, continue our work as stewards from below. Do you own your identity as a steward? As a custodian of creation? As a custodian of humanity? Is your action and your prayer marked by the deliberateness of a steward with divine mandate? Since landing here in August, I have watched the space between the presbytery and the church turn from chaos into order. I remember watching the concrete get laid, the pillars set in place, and now the roof installed. This orderliness has created something of the oasis which a garden or paradeisos promise. If mere concrete and steel can produce this, how much more could the stewarding heart? If a mere church building can, how much more could our church community?
Our buildings are symbolic of the church which worships within them and so the visitors, tourists, parents and children who encounter us should feel tended to – stewarded – and given an oasis amidst chaotic moments in life. The Summit Day was a milestone along our parish’s journey towards becoming intentional as Christian stewards of our world. It is a journey to go beyond merely turning up at mass, to turning out to where Himself Christ wishes to go. That may be to our kids, to a sibling, to a stranger.
Mass remains the summit of our faith; it is also the source from which our faith springs and we act. Which ministry area is God drawing you towards, in order to be a co-steward on the Sunny Coast?