It's that time of year when the growth of everything in the garden, fields and woodlands is rapidly flourishing – if we've had enough rain! What, I wonder, does a garden mean to you? Perhaps it's the hard work of keeping the grass cut, the hedges trimmed and the weeds under control. Or perhaps it's the enjoyment of the flowers or birdsong, or freshly picked fruit and vegetables... perhaps a combination of all these and more.
You may have heard the story of the gardener who was taking a friend around her beautifully cultivated garden. 'What a wonderful garden you and God have created,' said the admiring friend. 'You should have seen it when God had it to Himself', replied the gardener - a reminder that we work with God in all sorts of ways to bring beauty and order and fruitfulness from all he has given us.
And this is true for all the aspects of our lives, not just in our gardening. God has given us resources, gifts and skills which we can cultivate to make our world a more beautiful and fruitful place, a more caring and just place to live. And just like tending a garden, it's often hard work and costly. There are weeds of greed and brambles of self interest to uproot, the hard ground of bitterness and pride to break up and the seeds of love, goodness and truth to sow and the gardening is often needed in our own hearts before we can start tackling the untended areas of our troubled world.
In one of the stories of Jesus after his resurrection, his friend Mary encounters him in the burial garden. She mistakes him for the gardener, until he says her name and she recognises him. Each of us is invited to hear Jesus call our name, to allow him to be the gardener tending our hearts and to join with him as he tends the needs of others.