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The Rev. Joseph Winston May 28, 2007
Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man
whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
The L ORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green
pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the L ORD for ever.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a
noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when
the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and
the greatest of these is love.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my
Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Try as I might, I could not ﬁnd any readings in the Bible that talked about
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers. There is absolutely no information found anywhere in the Scriptures that covers issue of tying up tomatoes. Should you use cages around every single tomato plant? Do you support each plant though the use of some old pantyhose and a wooden stake? Or do you just let the plants run free on the ground? Neither does the Bible give us any clear directions on how you lay out your pepper plants. What is the proper spacing between plants? Should they be put on the outside of the garden to keep wild animals out? And is it really true that planting jalapenos near other pepper varieties makes your bell peppers hotter? And maybe most importantly, God’s Holy Word does not give us suggestions on selecting burpless cucumbers. Despite these oversights on practical gardening tips, the Bible does give us a story about a garden. In the lesson from Genesis, we hear about the ﬁrst garden ever planted on earth, the Garden of Eden. This plot of land planted by God contained every living plant: trees of all kinds ranging from the most majestic oak to the smallest shrub, ferns of every size and shape including the maidenhair and ﬁddleback, and of course plants, which must have included tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. A river ﬁlled with cool, clear water supplied the needs of the plants and it was Adam’s job to take care of the entire garden. One can only imagine all of the work needed to keep Eden in tiptop shape. As the sun peaked over the horizon, warmed the soil, and woke up the animals, Adam got out of bed. Just like every other farmer, before he made his plans for the day he checked the weather. Rain meant that he could not go out in the ﬁelds to work while a sunny day gave him many hours of pleasure. Sundays provided 4
the perfect day to work around the house. Maybe on Mondays, he tolled in the northern portions of Eden. Tuesday’s chores took Adam to the east, Wednesday’s work occurred in the western section, and Thursday brought him into the southern quadrant of the garden. Friday was the day to catch up on all those “honey-do” chores. Finally, on every Saturday, Adam, like God, rested from all of his work. We do know one basic fact about Adam’s existence in the Garden of Eden. Every evening, God walked in the garden. It seems safe to say that they both enjoyed Eden. Adam loved his life in the garden and God’s pleasure for the goodness of creation could be clearly seen. This daily interaction between God and man dwarfed every other aspect about life in Eden since here in the garden Adam could see God face to face. Adam is not the only creature who has seen God in creation. Billy Eure was such a man. One of Billy’s favorite discussions was, “How can anyone be an atheist?” Billy could not believe that anyone could deny the existence of God. “Just look at a sunset,” Billy would say to me. “How could anyone not believe in God?” Before you would even have a chance to respond, Billy would continue on, “And what about the rest of the world with its trees, oceans, and mountains?” “How could anyone believe that it just happened?” Billy especially saw God in his garden. When Billy went in for his last openheart surgery, he made sure that every one knew that he needed to get home as quickly as possible. He had one hundred tomato plants, a pallet of peppers, and sack of onions that needed to be planted. When it was ﬁnally clear that he could not leave the hospital soon enough to get all of the plants in the ground, Billy 5
reluctantly gave this task to others. But do not forget, Billy had to tell them exactly how to lay out his garden. Come summer, no one ever went away from the Eure house empty handed because Billy loved to give away the fresh vegetables from his garden. It did not matter if you were rich or poor Billy wanted to share the bountiful harvest. It goes without saying that this generosity extended to all of the nurses and doctors that had helped him in his time of need. He and Iris were planning to return to the hospital with fresh produce for each of them. This was the faith of Billy Eure. A man who in his words and his actions proved his love for God and his fellow human. Billy was a good and faithful husband, father, and grandfather. He loved his family and his family deeply loved him. These actions on Billy’s part were never easy for him because Billy did not have a pain free life. Billy served his country during World War Two and this time in the service permanently scarred him. While working on a scaffold, a sniper shot at him. He jumped to the ground and in doing so, he hurt his back. Billy carried this injury with him to his death. This was not the only time in Billy’s life where a wound followed him for the rest of his life. After his honorable discharge, Billy returned home and marred. With almost no warning, his ﬁrst wife took his young daughter and left him. For as long as he lived, Billy never saw his daughter again. After these two great tragedies, Iris came into Billy’s life. They were married and lived together as husband and wife for almost ﬁfty-four years. As long as I have known them, their love never decreased. They were just as a dedicated couple 6
on the day of their marriage as on the day Billy died. If you look at the way Billy lived, you could see God. Billy and Iris had one daughter Sherry who he loved deeply. In addition to his gifts of fresh fruits and vegetables, Billy enjoyed taking Iris and Sherry to many different church activities. At these and other events, Billy volunteered to share his cooking skills. He cared for others by making soup and serving huge servings of chicken spaghetti. It was apparent to all who knew him that Billy’s love was not limited to his wife and his daughter. He was extremely thankful for Sherry’s husband Wayne and Billy absolutely adored his two grandchildren: Heath and Heather. All around us today are people that Billy “adopted.” No, they were not made heirs in a legal sense of the word. Instead, they were given something that most people can only dream about. These men and woman, boys and girls were given a family that loved them. All throughout this time, Billy’s life continued to have its ups and downs. Work at the petrochemical plants never was easy. Close friends died in accidents and the chemicals permanently damaged his lungs. He had to ﬁght to receive his Veteran’s beneﬁts. Even with all of this hurt that he had experienced, Billy continued to see God both in the world and in his life. Despite the shortcomings, the failures, and the constant pain in his own life, Billy did not turn God away. Before Billy’s successful open surgery, he joined us in a prayer for healing. Likewise, after the surgery, we all gave thanks for God’s actions in Billy’s life. Even with everything that Billy did for those people around him, he never 7
trusted in own his ability to work his way into God’s good graces. Instead, Billy relied on God to do what God had promised in Billy’s baptism. There in the water and in the Word, God not only drowned everyone of Billy’s shortcomings and faults but God also gave Billy the gift of eternal life. We hold fast to these promises and we know that Billy is with God in that amazing garden where death is no more. Gardening is hard work. You must plant, weed, and water before the harvest can come. Billy knew that. He accepted the challenges in his life and he worked his whole life to make the world a better place. Because of Billy and his dedication to gardening and his family, we all can see God a little bit better. Billy now knows clearly, what we still trust by faith. When all is said and done, that day is coming for each of us when we will no longer have to look for God in the garden. On that ﬁnal day, we will know with certainty that God has found us, through His Son Jesus Christ. At that time, we will look God in the face and we will walk with Him the garden forever. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”2