Faith Church

The Garden Of God – Paradise Restored | Sermon from 4/1/2018

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The resurrection of Jesus takes place in a garden.  In John 19:41 it says, at the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.  So Jesus’ tomb was in a garden which means that when Mary went to the tomb to either anoint Jesus body for burial or to just be near him, she went to a garden and when she got there the stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone.  After all the disciples had come to check out the empty tomb and left the garden, Mary hung around.  She didn’t know what else to do or where else to go so she stayed in the garden because it was the last place she had known Jesus to be.  John 20:11-18

The resurrection takes place in a garden and the risen Jesus is thought to be a gardener and so this garden theme we find in the Bible continues.  God created the world to be a garden which I guess makes God the ultimate gardener.  Adam and Eve were created to live in the garden where they could walk and talk with God forever but their sin drove them out.  Their story is our story and so we know that our sin drives us away from God and the garden he created and on our own we cannot get back.

On our own we cannot enter the promised land or the kingdom of God – on our own we cannot recreate the garden of God but what we can’t do – Jesus can and so in a garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus made the choice to restore paradise by taking up a cross and paying the penalty for our sin and in a garden Jesus did the work of redemption and suffered and died.  Today we see that it was also in a garden that Jesus rose from the grave and the reason Jesus did all of this was so we could live with God forever in the garden, God’s garden.  Paradise literally means, the King’s Garden and so what Jesus did was open the gate for us to live in an eternal garden.    Paradise has been restored and at the very end of the Bible we see eternal life and the kingdom of heaven described as a garden.  Revelation 22:1-5.

Just as in the Garden of Eden, in this garden there is a tree that brings life.  The leaves of the tree are for healing and unity.  Water flows through the garden which quenches the thirst of all who long for God.  Life in paradise is restored and through Jesus the door has been opened.  The Bible begins in a garden where on our own we are soon driven out, but the work of Jesus redeems us and we are brought back in so the Bible ends with an eternal garden and the fullness of life.  When we trust in God’s love and accept what God has done on our behalf – this garden of God is open to us.  Through Jesus we are given the gift of eternal life, a resurrection, and life in the garden with God.

The resurrection of Jesus in a garden means we can experience an eternal life to come but it also means we can have a meaningful life here and now because Easter shows us that God confronts the problems of sin and evil.  While at times we feel hopeless because of the darkness and evil that permeates our world – God does not leave us in the darkness.  Easter shows us that God doesn’t just allow evil to continue and darkness to reign, God has a response to darkness and it is simple, God brings light.  The darkness of a tomb was invaded by the light of God which caused the stone that sealed the tomb in darkness to be rolled away.  The resurrection brings the power of God’s light into the darkness of our world and it is a light that the darkness cannot overcome.  The beginning of John’s gospel says, The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  From the beginning we knew that darkness and evil would not win and the resurrection is the fulfillment of this word – this promise.

God’s response to the darkness of sin and evil is to shine his light into the world in order to drive the darkness away and God does this for just one reason, God loves us.  God loves us and wants us to experience the fullness of life which means being set free from the power of sin and evil and so Jesus overcomes the grave and in that resurrection we are given light and life.

Easter is also God’s promise that sin and death will never have the final word.  God doesn’t just confront sin and evil – God overcomes it.  God destroys it.  When we first look at Jesus on the cross it might appear that sin and death and the violence of our world has the upper hand.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the personification of love and all that is good was being beaten and crucified.  Evil seems to have won and death seems to have the final say, but Easter tells us that sin and death never have the final word.  God is always victorious.  God’s power of love and life and light conquerors sin and death.

The bible uses some pretty strong words to talk about the power of God over sin and the grave.
Death has been swallowed up in victory.  1 Corinthians 15:54
God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15: 57
In all things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.  Romans 8:37
Our Savior Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  2 Timothy 1:10

While we talk about Jesus being meek, mild, humble and loving we can never forget about the power of God that Easter represents.  Death was swallowed up and destroyed.  A tomb was opened, a gravestone was rolled away. There was a victory and that victory doesn’t just belong to Jesus – it belongs to all of us.  We are all more than conquerors.

Adam Hamilton has said that maybe we need to re-imagine what Easter is all about and use an different image, maybe one like this.

This is an iconic picture of Muhammed Ali defeating Sonny Liston to be the heavy weight champion of the world in 1965.  Ali knocked Liston out in the first minute of the first round.  They first met a year earlier and no one thought Ali, known at that time as Cassius Clay, had any chance against Liston.  Liston became the heavyweight champion by defeating Floyd Patterson in 1962 and 1963 and both times he knocked Patterson out in the first round.

Sonny Liston learned to box in the Missouri State Prison where he was serving a sentence for armed robbery and he was considered to be the most intimidating boxer of his day.  The manager for another contender at that time said, we don’t even want to meet Sonny Liston walking down the street.  No one believed Ali stood a chance in the ring.  In fact, one reporter was told to drive to the closest hospital because that was where Ali would end up in the first round.  But that didn’t happen.  Ali won and this is what Easter looks like with Jesus conquering sin and death.  On Friday with Jesus on the cross it look like sin and evil would win.  No one gave Jesus a chance and a sealed tomb made it look like the power of death had won, but then Jesus emerges victorious and doesn’t just defeat death he destroys it.

Now here’s the thing, if this is how Jesus deals with sin and death then what Easter also tells us is that the worst thing in our lives is never the final thing,  Because the power of God is with us, we are more than conquerors and there is always hope.  The power of Christ’s resurrection is part of the power God gives to us so the worst thing we experience in life is never the final thing.

What is the worst thing you have had to go through?  For some this might be a complete failure in school, or at a job or in a relationship.  Peter knew this failure.  Peter was devoted to Jesus and he promised Jesus that he would never betray him, deny him or desert him and yet three times on the night Jesus was arrested Peter denied that he knew Jesus and twice he ran away.  This is a complete failure and for Peter there was nothing worse.  He wept.

But seeing the risen Jesus told Peter that his failure was not final – there would be another opportunity for Peter to show his love and there would be another opportunity for Peter to be faithful and courageous.  His worst thing was not his final thing and our failures are never final.  No matter where or how we have failed, God redeems and lifts us up and moves us forward.

Maybe the worst thing we face is a fear and anxiety that becomes paralyzing.  We are so filled with doubt and apprehension that we don’t even know how to move forward.  The disciples understood this kind of fear.  They were so afraid when Jesus was arrested that they ran away.  They were afraid after Jesus died so they hid in the upper room but once Jesus stood among them as their risen Lord and Savior – they found a courage and strength to overcome fear.  The worst thing for them was not the final thing.

For many of us today, the worst thing we face is sickness and death, either our own or of someone we love.  While the suffering we go through ourselves and with our loved ones is terrible, even then we need to remember that the worst thing is never the final thing.  Last year I got to know an amazing woman who showed me this clearly.  Penny Bauman was diagnosed with stage 4 inoperable colon cancer and while she fought the cancer and hoped to overcome it, from the moment we first talked she was clear that even if she died it would be ok because death would not have the final word.  The worst thing for her and her family would not be the last thing.

The more Penny and I talked about faith in God and trusting the gift God gives us of eternal life the more I could see in Penny that the worst thing in her life – this battle with cancer – was not going to be the final thing.  She knew a resurrection was coming.  She always knew a resurrection was coming.  What I love about Penny’s story is that her faith in the resurrection and God’s victory of life over death was something she believed and trusted in before she was diagnosed with cancer.  Penny loved horses and she worked hard to breed her horse to produce a champion show horse and it was last year on Easter Sunday that her horse gave birth.

She told me that she named the horse Rose and I am thinking, how nice – like a flower.  She said, no rose – as in Jesus rose from the grave.

Even before she was sick Penny had an understanding of the power of God over sin, sickness and death.  She knew that the worst thing in her life would never be the final thing because Jesus rose from the grave.

Today isn’t actually Rose’s birthday because Easter last year was April 16, but every Easter Rose will be a reminder that the worst thing is never the final thing.

Penny’s faith and trust in the resurrection needs to remind us that no matter what we face, the worst thing is never the final thing.  What Easter tells us is that even death is not final – because Jesus rose from the dead and defeated sin and death.  He destroyed it, he swallowed it up in victory – it is gone, annihilated, wiped out and in its place is a garden where we can experience the fullness of life with God now and forever.

We can live with the power of Christ’s resurrection at work in us because part of the Easter story is that God gave this power and life to us.  In the first garden, God breathed into us the breath of life.  Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Genesis 2:7.  God breathed into us and gave us life in a garden.  After the resurrection, the same thing happened.  In the upper room Jesus gathered with his disciples and said, Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:21-22

In the beginning God’s breath gave Adam and Eve the power to live life in a garden, here Jesus breathed on his followers and again gave them power to live life anew in a garden – Paradise restored.  We are being born again.  Easter tells us we have been given the power of God to live life to the fullest in the King’s Garden.

But this power and life is not just for us.  Jesus said, I am sending you.  We aren’t just being called to live in the garden or the kingdom of God we are being called to work for it.  Through Jesus, paradise was restored and God is sending us out to work in and for this garden.  Easter is about living with God’s power and working to recreate the Garden of God.  When we live with hope, work for justice, offer compassion and extend grace and mercy to those in need we are restoring paradise.

God created us to live in a garden and the resurrection of Jesus ensures that this garden is open for us all.  Sin, evil and death have been destroyed – the worst thing is never the final thing because life and love have won the day.  By accepting the grace of God and the power of God’s Holy Spirit we can live life in the garden of God forever.

Next Steps
Paradise Restored

1. Jesus rose from the grave in a garden.  Read this garden story in the four gospels.

  • Matthew 28
  • Mark 16
  • Luke 24
  • John 20

2. The New Testament talks about this victory in some powerful ways.  Read about the power of the resurrection.

  • Romans 8:37
  • 1 Corinthians 15:54 & 57
  • 2 Timothy 1:10

3.  Easter (the resurrection of Jesus) means that the worst thing is never the final thing.

  • What failure do you need to see forgiven and redeemed so you can move forward?
  • What fear do you need to see defeated?
  • What sickness are you walking through that needs the power of God’s healing and hope?
  • Where is the power of Christ’s resurrection most needed in your life?  Ask God to breath on you.

4. Who can you encourage to find hope and life in the midst of their failure, fear and sickness?

5. Easter means living with power and working to restore paradise (the king’s garden).  What act of kindness, service and love can you do this week to show others the kingdom of God?

6. Work with us to restore the Garden of God in our community by volunteering with our annual outreach event on April 28, Serving our Seniors.  You can volunteer online or fill out a volunteer form found in the lobby or today’s bulletin.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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