A View from St Kilda – May 2024

“You can tell a manse garden a mile away.”

This was a comment made by a colleague and a friend who worked on the then, Ministries Council, at the beloved headquarters, 121.

I discovered that she wasn’t being complementary. For some reason, gardening was not a high priority for ministers – they are not green-fingered!

Mind you, you can’t win. Many a minister has heard the comment ‘The manse garden is untidy‘ but when the minister is out there with his or her sleeves rolled up it’s also a mistake because there are visits to be done!

Gardens: nice to look at, nice to sit in, nice to stroll around, like the Botanic Gardens, but don’t ask me to work in them. I am not a gardener, nor do I want to be one…

… and yet…

Mary meets Jesus in a garden.

He is alive. Embodied. A tremendous mystery and the joy of that first Easter Day. The wounds are visible in his hands and feet, but somehow transfigured. Mary Magdalene sees Jesus and supposes, at a first glance, that he is the Gardener.

Adam and Eve were gardeners: that’s the job God gave them at the very beginning. Now, the New Adam – Jesus – who had gone to a garden to cry out to his Father before the whole business had started, who died in agony on a tree near a garden and who had been buried in a garden, looks up from his chrysanthemums, wipes the dirt from his tilling hands, and stands to greet Mary.

She is walking away, dejected, in tears. He stops her because he wants to know why she is weeping. She mumbles something about a dead man that’s missing and asks did he carry his body somewhere else, probably looking away from Christ in sorrow.

Then Jesus grabs her attention: “Mary!” She recognises his voice when he calls her by name, and in half disbelief cries out “Teacher!” and clings to him with such abandon and joy that Christ has to pull her away.
This is person-to-person.

This is the real 121.

This is real. This calls for our trust and faith. It beckons to something deep inside of each of us. “Christ is risen !!”

I am not a gardener… but then maybe I am.

Life itself is growth and decay. Life is about pruning.

And thank God, life is about new buds, new life, new possibilities. I look out the manse window and see creation in front of my face – foxes, moving from bin to bin in our throw away world. Blue tits landing on the branches of the tree on the front lawn that has grown since last year; squirrels running along the back wall; cats on the prowl; ravens, rooks, gulls, flying overhead – all of creation, outside my window.

And on another rainy day in a soak-filled April, Paul, yes that’s my gardener’s name, starts up his mower, to churn up the wet grass!

As the Rt Revd Derek Browning wrote once in Life and Work “… though, for most, the worst of winter is past, spring is often tentative, and we find ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back…”
Just like life.

And God calls you and I to be gardeners.

To prune back in our lives the unnecessary and the wasted.

To let go that which has died in our lives, for remember Jesus’ words “Why are you seeking the living amongst the dead?”

To grow, to seek new life, to help bring newness to people’s lives.

We are all gardeners, even those with gardens like mine.

A garden of Eden to a garden of Gethsemane and a buried tomb in a garden.

She thought he was a gardener.

He was in many ways.

“Where have you put him?”

Where have we put him in our lives?

Enjoy this Easter Season as we head to the joy and jubilation of Pentecost.

Your friend and minister,

George C Mackay