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"My Favourite Island Church

- Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman CBE (1906-1984)

ST. ALBAN'S CHURCH

THE CHAPEL-OF-EASE TO THE PARISH OF GODSHILL

 

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© Copyright 2018 St. Alban's Church - Ventnor, Isle of Wight.    All Rights Reserved.

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St. Alban's Church, St. Alban's Road,

Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1DE

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I remember as a child finding this rather touching.  As I grew older my feelings changed and I began to be rather irritated by what seemed to me to be a rather mawkish sentimentality about these words  -  and rather later by the obvious mistake they contain.  If the whole world is the Lord’s and everything that is in it, it is dangerous and silly to think God present more in one place than another.  

Many years later that I found the complete poem from which those lines come:

It is called God’s Garden by Dorothy Frances Gurney

THE Lord God planted a garden

In the first white days of the world,

And He set there an angel warden

In a garment of light enfurled.

So near to the peace of Heaven,

That the hawk might nest with the wren,

For there in the cool of the even

God walked with the first of men.

And I dream that these garden-closes

With their shade and their sun-flecked sod

And their lilies and bowers of roses,

Were laid by the hand of God.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,--

One is nearer God's heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.

For He broke it for us in a garden

Under the olive-trees

Where the angel of strength was the warden

And the soul of the world found ease.

 

So what, taken out of context, sounds like sentimental nature worship is actually a hymn to God the Gardener   -  the  God of Eden  -  where Adam disobeyed   -  and the God of Gethsemane  -  where Jesus obeyed.  

But God has prepared another garden too.  

It was in a garden close to Calvary where they buried Jesus.  We heard about Mary Magdalene’s visit to that garden in this morning’s Gospel: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”  (Jn 20.1)   Picture Mary in your mind.  Walking along disconsolate, head down and wretched, like everyone who has lost a loved one.  She stands for the whole human race at this time of unprecedented fear, misery and sense of loss.  If anything her sadness was compounded when she found the tomb broken open and empty.  

In the Gospel, John told us the rest of the story, how the risen Jesus gradually revealed himself to Mary. I don’t know whether it is deliberate, but there is an interesting irony about the fact that Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener.   It’s ironic, because he was the Gardener.  The Gardener who had planted Eden and appointed Adam to care for it has now returned to put right what Adam’s disobedience had put wrong.  

The Easter Garden restores, renews and perfects the Garden of Eden.

So let me add a verse of my own to Dorothy Gurney’s poem:.

On the first Easter day in the morning,

Mary Magdalene came in deep gloom,

And there in the garden she saw Him,

Alive and free from the tomb.

Today, Easter, Resurrection Day, is when God shows that the death of Jesus was not the tragic end it seemed, but the moment of victory.

At Easter Jesus triumphed over death and sin   -   and he makes that possible for us too -  enabling us face in the same way all that threatens us, confident that God knows what is best for us and will not let us down.

Easter is the celebration of what God has done for us in Christ.  And what God has done for us in Christ is not just bringing Jesus back from the dead. In doing so, God has given new life to us as well, so that even now while we continue in this world with its strange mixture of joys and sorrows we can begin to enjoy the delights of heaven.  

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed. Alleluia!  

EASTER DAY ADDRESS VIDEO

CELEBRATE EASTER 2020 AT HOME WITH THE HELP OF THESE VIDEOS

Kindly made for us by +John who was due to take our Holy Week services at St. Alban's Church this year.

Easter Sunday 2020 Address

 

My grandmother, “Nana” we called her, was a formidable lady, who terrified her neighbours and her family by insisting on riding her bike into old age.  That’s irrelevant, but what is relevant is that she had a plaque in her garden with the verse:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth,

 

I remember as a child finding this rather touching.  As I grew older my feelings changed and I began to be rather irritated by what seemed to me to be a rather mawkish sentimentality about these words  -  and rather later by the obvious mistake they contain.  If the whole world is the Lord’s and everything that is in it, it is dangerous and silly to think God present more in one place than another.