When I was little we were not well off, and one of the ways my parents dealt with that was our 1/2 acre garden. All the veggies we ate throughout the year came from that garden. It meant hours of planting, hoing, weeding, mulching, and picking; and even more hours of shelling, cutting, cleaning, and canning.
I was a very reluctant gardener.
Then I grew up, and moved away from home, and bought my first house. It had been built in 1864 by the first blacksmith in Lapeer county Michigan. He made every nail that held it together, he built the house himself. And his wife built a garden. She filled the yard with vegetables because she was the practical pioneer sort. But what she loved were her roses.
I had a picture of her, in her 90s just after the turn of the century standing on the porch of our little house beside one of her prize rose bushes. When I moved in one of them remained. It’s cuttings were all over the neighborhood, nearly every yard had one of “Mrs. Loft’s roses.” It was a huge sprawling octopus of a rose, with a hundred canes. They shot up taller than my head and then arched out like a fountain.
It was covered with thorns, I swear to you it’s big thorns had little thorns. I once got too close when mowing the yard and my sister had to carefully extract me from it’s clutches.
But once a year, every year, it bloomed. And when it bloomed the whole neighborhood smelled like honey, and sweetness. Bees got drunk just flying into our yard. That enormous ancient bush for a few weeks every year was covered with thousands upon thousands of huge pink blooms.
Anything I stuck in the ground of Mrs. Lofts rose garden grew, even things that had no business growing in Michigan. I once accidentally broke off a piece of one of my favorite roses while pruning. Guiltily I stuck that broken bit of can into the soil and within a few months: it had taken root and was blooming.
And I suppose God found my love of gardening a great amusement, given my raging impatience (seriously, I can’t even sit still). I am really, really impatient. I want things to happen NOW. So while I really wish I were Mary Magdalene this morning I suspect I would have been Peter.
Roses are patient. The saying among rose gardeners is the first year they creep; the second year they sleep; the third year they leap!
Peter couldn’t wait for that third year. He ran to the tomb! RAN. And he looked inside, saw things that didn’t make sense, and he went home.
Mary stayed with it.
Mary stayed in the garden with her grief.
She stayed with the mystery.
She stayed with the wrongness.
And because she did: she saw Jesus.
I remember the impatience of that first year in Mrs. Loft’s garden. And the second. That ancient rose bush showed me what could be, but wow were the new ones slow to catch up. And yet, for once I kept at it. I stayed there in the garden pulling the weeds and adding mulch, and watering.
I kept wading back into that octopus of a rose to prune it and fertilize it (why I thought it needed fertilizer after 100 years I don’t know). And one day: years after I’d started I walked out into a spring garden filled with birds, and bees, and thousands of blooms nodding from fifty rose bushes.
Stay with it.
Peter takes one look at rose bushes with nothing on them, at an empty tomb that makes no sense, and he goes home.
And that makes all the difference, between seeing Jesus face to face, and missing him entirely. And there in the garden, she hears her name.
Our story begins in a garden, filled with possibility and struck down by impatience.
And Mary’s story (and ours) is changed in a garden; transformed by patience and love.
I like to think that Mary wasn’t wrong. She did meet the gardener in the light of that new world. On Easter morning she met the Gardener replanting the garden we tore up with our impatience and greed. On Easter morning she met the gardener who knows the name of every rose, thistle, and violet; and doesn’t believe any of us are weeds.
She met the gardener who happily wades into our thorniest places, and spreads fertilizer around our roots, and waits, patiently for our blooms.
On Good Friday God left silent space for us; God waited through all the times it seemed we would never bloom. And today, today God speaks a new word into our hearts and into the world. It is hope, joy, life, and love. It is our names tenderly spoken. It is our fears soothed.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen and with him we rise, and we bloom. In him the tired world unfurls new leaves, and opens buds into full flower.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen, the Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!