On my sixteenth birthday I came home from high school to find a bouquet of long stemmed blue iris’s, a gift from parents. My birthday falls in February, one of the bleakest months of the year, when fresh flowers are an especially delightful reminder of the warmer weather to come.
During the long season of Lent the church was void of fresh flowers. Instead we had dried sunflowers in muted browns and tan colors, and bare branches, rocks and ashes, stark symbols of winter and the spiritual journey of a season intentionally focused on our broken human nature, of the need for forgiving others and being forgiven ourselves.
Now the space is once again filled with flowers, in such an abundance that I have to use Flonase just to be in this room. Potted tulips, hydrangeas, hyacinths, daffodils, and lilies. They fill the altar space and the transept, overflowing from altar to step, down to the font. It is a heady sight. One church I served use to plant the bulbs left over from these flowers. We’d have a party at the end of the Easter season and as a community we’d plant them around the property. Then the following spring the flowers would bloom, usually right in time for Easter! After years of doing this we ended up with gorgeous spring flower beds around the church.
This practice of planting Easter flowers holds more than a practical side of building a spring garden. It is theologically symbolic of faith taking root deep inside of us, like the bulbs growing roots into the earth, then, of shoots springing forth and flowers blooming into a resurrection garden – a metaphor for our faith.
This morning we find Mary in the garden. She has come looking for the tomb of Jesus, but finds it empty. She speaks to someone, an angel perhaps, and flees with a mission to accomplish. She is halted on her way by someone she mistakes for the gardener. He calls out for her, “Mary!” and, it takes her a moment to recognize that this is not a gardener but Jesus himself, in the flesh.
What is important to gleam from this story is that God’s love is made real in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection reminds us of a couple of things: God is bigger than our small knowledge of God, God reveals Gods self in unexpected ways, and God is always about love and restoring new life to the broken places in the world.
The gospel stories unpack for us the various responses one can have to the living presence of God in our lives. The women respond by running off and telling the disciples, the disciples run and see for themselves that the tomb is empty, and the guards have another response, they attempt to subvert the resurrection by saying someone has stolen the body.
I have witnessed new life and life restored to wholeness and hope replace despair often enough that I believe in the resurrection, in God’s ability to bring forth new life when we least expect it and in ways we cannot anticipate.
God’s love prevails, year after year, rising up in communities all around the world. God’s love prevails over the violence in this world. Terrorism will not win. Death will not win. Into each horrible act of violence, perpetrated by selfish and cruel humans, God acts through the kindness and compassion of other human beings, who pick up the pieces, help those who have been wounded, and work to restore hope. God acts through us, we are the hands and feet and heart of Jesus, the means through which God’s love is poured out into the world. We reveal God’s love every time we treat another person with kindness, respect the dignity of others, and respond to life’s circumstances with compassion.
Like tulips, daffodils or lily’s we bring our own special essence to this garden of life, or own special way of loving God, and loving others as God loves us. Like Mary we too are called and sent to bring the good news: “Its Easter and God’s love is alive!”