Ruth Gee: April 2018
I love the feel of the earth in my hands, the warm crumbly texture of it as it sifts through my fingers. It is full of life, teeming with the promise of new growth, dancing with the joy of creation. In the soil is the hope, the past and the future of life. In its primeval promise it embraces the love of the creator.
I worked at the first in the creator's garden, a fertile area where we could always hear the bubbling, laughing voice of the four rivers carrying the living water to the soil. It was joyful work; innovative and exciting. We watched the first flowers grow and named them according to their colour or their scent. The trees were tall and strong, their roots reaching down into the heart of things and drawing sustenance from the source. The fruit on those trees was voluptuous in shape and taste, juices ran down your face as you ate, anointing and nourishing.
My favourite flowers, and his, were the poppies. Their prodigality never ceased to amaze me; carpets of fragile red blooms, extravagant in colour, delicate to touch and fleeting in bloom. They were so beautiful, regally clothed, exulting in the joy of life.
We had to leave, of course. I suppose it was inevitable that we would be unable to resist that fruit, the forbidden fruit. We had so much that we could eat, an abundance of beauty and taste but we had to have it all. 'All or nothing' we said and, as it turned out they were the same thing. We didn't look back as we left but the brightness of the garden shone from behind us and sometimes, when I look towards the sun, I think I see the place again.
There were many gardens after that and my joy in the soil never left me but it was harder now to release its promise. The flowers still grew and with them the persistent weeds. Weeds that threatened to strangle the delicate shoots, to suck the goodness from the soil, to prevent new life and darken hope.
Weeds that would pull the flowers up if you attacked them too soon, weeds of synthetic beauty, sculpted to deceive, subtle in subversion.
The poppies still bloomed, nothing could stop them, so persistent and generous in their flowering are those lilies of the field. They always remind me of his love and care, his delight in his creation. But I was surprised to see them that morning.
It had been a dark week-end, not good for growing. I went to the garden expecting the earth to be weeping, weeping like women, in need of anointing. It began softly at first, a familiar grief, well known and appropriate. Then the shock of emptiness led to despair, to absence and uncertainty, to loneliness.
The weeping drew me across the waking earth. The grass was wet with dew, springing up at every step, quenching thirst, inviting new life. Gossamer threads, spider sculpted, reflected the promise of morning light. Still she wept. I spoke her name, She turned, hope dawning in her eyes. Around our feet the poppies danced in jubilation and, bathed in brightness, we celebrated our homecoming.
'For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.' (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
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Elm Ridge Methodist Church
Oxford Belfry, Milton Common, Thame OX9 2JW
Oxford Belfry, Milton Common, Thame OX9 2JW