Summary: This was preached for an Easter Sunrise service but can be used anytime. Theme is from the hymn "I Come to the Garden Alone" and topic is insomnia. (Material adapted from the book, "Sweet Dreams: A Guide to Productive Sleep" by Minirth, Meier)
I have 4 teenage sons, two sets of twins, ages 17 and 13. When I ministered at a church in Indiana, every other month we had a worship service at the local nursing home. The worship consisted of singing favorite hymns of the residents and then I would preach. Well, one lady always wanted us to sing, “In the Garden.” After the worship my sons would always be sarcastic about the woman who requested this song. Now, boys, I love this hymn, it is one of my favorites. (Give some lyrics from the hymn if needed)
The inspiration for this hymn comes from John 20:1-18
C. Austin Miles (186801946) imagined the vision of Mary Magdalene meeting the risen Christ in the garden (John 20) and wrote this hymn as an interpretation of that encounter. Mr. Miles wrote, “ It was though I was in a trance, as I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord and cried, “Rabboni”. I rested my hands on the open Bible, as I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came unto the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and ran away.
John, in a flowing robe, appeared looking at the tomb. Then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly by John. As they departed, Mary reappeared leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing there, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched, and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni”.
I awakened in sunlight, gripping my Bible with my muscles tense, and nerves vibrating. I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the lyrics exactly as it is sung today."
We come this morning to celebrate and acknowledge the foundation of our faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is historically reliable. Sources outside of the Bible tell us that something happened on that Sunday morning. Many of those sources are unwilling to admit the resurrection, but they admit something happened on that day that changed the world. Because of the resurrection, the church came into existence and the church turned that world upside down.
I am a hospice chaplain here in Cincinnati. When people here about what I do they respond to me in one of two ways: 1) You are a super saint 2) I don’t know how you do that?
I do have struggles. Many times my struggle is insomnia. This problem came long before I worked in hospice. I go to bed, fall asleep, wake up at 3 am and there I am, wide awake. There are few options at 3 am. I used to watch TV. Bad idea! I used to get on the computer, even worse idea. I used to walk the halls but this would make it harder to go back to sleep and I might even wake up the other 5 people in my house. I used to get up and read. That was alright but if I didn’t turn on the light I strained my eyes, if I did turn on the light, that was a sure fire way not to go back to sleep and again I might wake up someone else. Why make other people miserable? What to do, what to do? I need sleep, why am I awake? Try counting sheep, but that will wake up my wife. After many attempts, I think I have found a couple of things that help.
First, we have to change our mind about sleeplessness. The hymn, “In the Garden”, helps. I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses- that is definitely what is happening to me. At 3 am the dew is on the roses.
“And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.” Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is waking me up. Why would the Lord be waking me up? To spend time with him. Whether it is the Lord or my tortured soul, the change in mindset helps me. Let me say this, no one ever died from failing to get 8 hours of sleep. Many tell us that we need 8 hours of sleep but we can carry on even if we fail to get 8 hours of sleep. One of the biggest factors that keeps people awake is worrying about being awake. I need sleep, I need sleep and we watch the clock and think, oh no, I only got 4 hours of sleep last night. I have found that one can survive with minimal sleep. I don’t encourage it but it can be done. This change in mindset helped me.