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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
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Friday, April 22, 2011


How odd one's mind is: at one moment it is cruising along, planning the evening meal (I think I have ricotta cheese in the fridge), rearranging the living room, thinking about a family member in trouble, and maybe even alighting briefly on our life's friend and companion--that being Jesus and not the dog--and suddenly, the mind tosses up a strange question--Did Jesus garden?

Let's think about this together. I envision a small plot outside their house in Nazareth. The weather and soil being what they were, I don't see a rich, friable, or very fruitful earth. But perhaps Mary, being the savvy lady she was, saved her egg shells, scraps of food, and dug them into the garden, for surely Our Mother had a garden plot somewhere nearby.

I imagine her setting out jugs of water and asking Jesus, as a boy, to please take them outside and water the olive vines and the vegetables struggling to grow. Perhaps she called from the doorway, "Hey, Jesus! Don't scimp on those weeds!" I see him being a bit cranky with this hot and pesky job. But when the fruit came in--when the olives were picked and the veggies harvested--I see Jesus munching on the good, nutritious (and assuredly organic) food, giving a nod to his mother.

Of course Jesus lived in an agrarian society, but even so, the idea that He had prior experience in growing things becomes clearer when we look at His parables: the fig tree, which he blasts for not being fruitful; the vineyard which God sends his son to tend; the parable of the sower and the weeds among the wheat; the mustard seed; and in the end, even His tomb, given by Joseph of Arimathea, happens to be in a garden. Although it is difficult to imagine Gethsemane as a garden in any sense of the world.

But it held death and rebirth. Isn't that what gardening is all about? I start out the spring full of bright ideas and firm resolutions, grubbing about in the dirt, setting in warm circles of dirt my tiny broccoli plants, lettuce transplants, leeks, onions, and other wonders. Things go well for awhile. I stride about my deck, humming under my breath, and perhaps having a celebratory glass of wine. Or two. Then disaster ensues. Deer lean over the fence and chomp on my plants. Cute bunnies nibble their way through the new carrots, despite my fence. And voles, the Devil's spawn, burrow under my new potatoes and eat every spud from within, leaving a fragile shell. If that isn't a parable about evil, I don't know what is!

I think each time we plant, weed, care and nurture, and sometimes harvest, we are enacting the Passion in a small and intimate way. Our hearts are full of hope. Things look really good for awhile. But soon hope is dashed. Yet, we pick ourselves up, regroup, and manage to salvage some goodness from the ruins--a few carrots, some bent onions, a meal of sauteed broccoli. Because we believe in a God of Hope, a God of Possibility that is surely what gardening is all about.

So, yes: I believe Jesus was a gardener--on a larger scale, in a bigger plot, with far larger stakes than my tiny square of earth. But when I stick my fingers into the soil and hope, as I always do, I think I am partaking of God's plan.

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