Summary: The Garden of Eden reveals God's gracious love for humanity as well as our call to serve God's creation.
Before Owen was born, someone gave us a children’s book called, I Love My Mommy Because…You might be familiar with the book, there is also one called, I Love My Daddy Because…but we didn’t get one of those books until more recently. In any case, on one page of the “Mommy” book, it reads, “I love my Mommy because she lets me play in the dirt.” And sure enough, when we are outside, Owen heads to the planters and sticks his fingers right into the soft soil. Or he goes to a plant bed, grabs a handful of mulch, and drops it over his head. It seems many of us humans have some sort of innate desire to “play in the dirt.” Of course, when we look at the description of our Creator in this morning’s passage, we can begin to understand where this desire originated.
We often view Genesis 2 as some sort of “lesser” creation story. It doesn’t have quite the grandeur of the opening creation narrative, and it’s missing some important details like how the light and water came to be. Yet at the same time, it provides greater details on certain aspects of creation. So, it is only natural that as we begin our new sermon series, “Gardening with God,” we start at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. A few months ago, we planted a vegetable garden here, on the property of this church. And as our church and community works to tend that garden and provide fresh produce to people who often have trouble obtaining such, I think its right for us to spend a few weeks looking at the significance of gardens and gardening in our spiritual heritage. We’ll start today at the beginning of our faith story, a journey with God that began in a garden in Eden. In the next couple of weeks, we will explore in depth some of Jesus’ parables that use gardening metaphors. Then, we will end with John’s revelation of the New Jerusalem, which interestingly enough parallels in many ways the Garden of Eden that begins our story.
So let’s look at what’s happening in the Garden of Eden, as God is busy creating. Near the start of this second chapter of Genesis, it says this: “On the day the Lord God made earth and sky…” If we take that reference and move backwards, what we find is that the following story could fill in the details of day 2 of creation (when the sky was created), or day 3 (when the earth and seas were formed). But as we read this second creation account, what we quickly see is that the creation of the birds, animals, sea creatures, and even humans corresponds with day 5 of the first creation story. We could spend a lot of time trying to reconcile these two creation accounts, or trying to explain them in some sort of logical way, but I think the most important thing to realize is that Genesis 1 very poetically tells us how the universe was created, while Genesis 2 tells the story of how human beings came into relationship with their Creator, and that’s where the Garden of Eden becomes such a central part of our faith history.
Listen again to the progression of events in this story. There is nothing but earth and sky—no rain, only a stream that bubbles from the earth. There are no plants, no animals; just dirt, and sky, and some water. And the first thing God does is dig into the dirt and form a human being, adam, from the word adamah, which means ground.” God literally digs into the soil and gets dirty hands. The “first fruit” of the Garden of Eden is humanity. I want you to think about the significance of that for a minute. We talk about the graciousness of God revealed in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. But look at the grace of God at work from the very beginning of creation; digging into the dirt, molding and forming and shaping us into his image, and then breathing into us the literal breath of life. Even the human beings walking around naked in the garden without shame is a sign of God’s gracious love for creation. It’s absolutely beautiful!
Then, after the human is created, God “plants a garden,” filling it plants and trees, making it fertile. Then, Genesis says, God “took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and take care of it.” Now, I want to spend a minute with this sentence, because this is where the gardening really comes into play, and that’s what we’re focusing on in this sermon series. Over time, I think we humans have gotten this idea that we were, or are, the “crown of creation.” God created us to master the world, to take God’s creation to the destiny God has in mind, even to the point that we believe that creation exists solely for our benefit. That idea is somewhat consistent with the creation story as it is told in the first chapter of Genesis, but the “hierarchy of creation” (if you want to look at it that way) here in Genesis 2 is a little different.