Hope abounds in this gardener’s breast, but perseverance is not my strong suit. I can barely relate to the Lord’s tenderness with Israel in Isaiah 5. “What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” Me? I love the planning and planting part of gardening; the tending and weeding part, not so much.
As a result, my gorgeous spring garden goes downhill quickly as summer heat makes going outside to tend things less and less attractive. In the fall, when the temps go back down, I tear all the weedy, neglected stuff out and plant a beautiful fall garden… which tends to look pretty sad come spring, when I tear things out and start all over.
In comparison to my lazy gardening, God has been nothing but thorough. God has brought a vine out of Egypt, tended and fed it in the desert, planted it in a specially-prepared place filled with milk and honey, cultivated it with a succession of priests and prophets… and somehow gotten “wild grapes” anyway. Not the kind of grapes that are sweet to eat and that make good wine, but grapes that are sour, sparse, and useless.
“God expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”
God has, from God’s own Self, planted perfect seeds for growing the sweet fruit of justice and right relationship. God has tended those seeds with providential love and grace, since before time even existed. God has given us quite a number of instruction books, which we silly humans have bound together lovingly and then mostly ignored. God has given us no end of prophetic voices to recall our attention to the essential requisite for producing sweet fruit: Worship God alone, and love your neighbor as yourself. In Christ, we were given not only unthinkable grace and forgiveness, but also an impossible-to-ignore living embodiment of right relationship with God and others.
But even now… God expects justice, and sees only bloodshed. God awaits right relationship, and is inundated by the cries of those oppressed and abused on a daily basis. This is the point at which I, as a gardener, start ripping things out and starting over.
Luckily for the human race, I’m not God. In today’s reading from II Peter we read, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Peter is writing about the end of time – about judgment and fire, but also about patience and love. “In accordance with God’s promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.”
Here is the garden God has promised us, and tended for us, and in which God patiently awaits us: a kingdom where righteousness is the natural fruit. A garden full of the sweetness of love, trust, compassion, justice, and peace. Here is the garden Advent teaches us to tend, in hope and by grace. God will have the harvest intended from the beginning: Emmanuel.
Written by Peach McDouall