Finding Garden Hope has been our pursuit through these Lenten weeks, and now we arrive at the heart of our obsession: Hope in Christ. Festivities this Sunday honor the death Christ suffered and celebrate the empty garden tomb, the death that did not contain Him, hallelujah! Placing our hope in the Lord, our dead-end situations and our very lives are not given over to death either, but to God’s unfailing love and deliverance, drawing us to forever hope in Christ:
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:18-22 NIV
Let us linger in the fullness of this holy moment by way of a special olive grove I visited on a recent trip to Santa Barbara, CA, sheltering the Stations of the Cross at the Old Mission. The Stations are marked with mosaic portraits created by Fr. Nevin Ford nearly 60 years ago. In rich, intense colors, Christ’s suffering stands sentinel amidst a meandering path through olive trees.
The garden space planted with olives offers remembrance of Christ’s pressured prayers in Gethsemane, the dark night under the craggy, bent trunks of the faithful fruit trees. Here we find fellowship in suffering, and pause in His anguished pleas to God the Father.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”…Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
Matthew 26:36-38, 42 NRSVCE
The image from Station 7 captured my heart the most: To remember my Savior, cheek to the ground…do you feel His personal gaze, His intimate knowing of all the low points of life?
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed…. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer… For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:4, 5, 10, 12 NIV
What I cherish in Christ’s story, walking the Stations of the Cross and engaging in His Way of Suffering, is that He engages ours—our troubles, pains, anxieties, worries, and wastelands, each and every one of us. There is no rock bottom apart from our God and Savior, Immanuel, God with us, the Rock:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).
Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23 NIV
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation
2 Samuel 22:2-3 NRSVCE
A pomegranate tree punctuates each Station’s statuary, colorful trees planted behind each of the 14 monuments. What telling botanical detail, the blood of His covenant reflected in pomegranate’s vibrant red flowers and fruits. My early spring visit caught the tree branches just leafing out with new growth, budding leaves tinged with red as well.
Most gardeners have known a shrub or perennial thought surely dead, especially after this tumultuous, stormy winter, only to send out shoots and revive, hallelujah! May every garden comeback this spring bring you to Christ’s conquering, the glorious realization that Jesus is alive, His Spirit ready to live in us and overcome our world with God’s eternal life.
He is not here; he has risen!
Luke 24:6 NIV
For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!
John 16:33 TPT
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
John 20:15-17 NRSVCE
Hope in Christ
Are you ready to hope in Christ? He is ready to bear all the consequences of falling short in your own strength, and every wrong turn that led you to a dead-end. Ask His forgiveness, for He is waiting for you. Embrace Christ, receive His forgiveness; believe this Holy Son and hope in Christ.
Prayer: O Lord, I am ready to hope in you, now and forever. Make my heart holy ground with your forgiveness, planted richly with your love. Let me remember you and gaze upon you before any doubt or dismay takes hold; I am convinced you are the Way, the only Way, and I want you to be my Savior, O God. May all your Words of hope fuse with all the new growth I see in my garden to keep me close to you and expectant of glory to come.
And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.
Colossians 1:27 Phillips
Happy Resurrection Day!
Devotions Blog returns Thursday, April 15th, resuming our bi-weekly schedule throughout the year
Hope is a garden defined! By its very working, the garden gives us something to look forward to — a good, glorious growth taking place or soon to dazzle us, one that lifts our hearts whenever we imagine it. Find Garden Hope is a 7-part devotional series for the Lenten season, matching God’s Word to garden antics and imagery and preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with deeper union and delight.
Be sure to visit Santa Barbara’s Old Mission on your next trip to California – learn more about this faith garden at www.santabarbaramission.org
Photo Credits: ©2021 Shelley S. Cramm Station 7 at the Old Mission Santa Barbara Stations of the Cross olive grove. At first, the shadows of the bare pomegranate branches across the face of Jesus bothered me, as I was hoping for a pristine photo of the amazing mosaic. Then I realized how symbolic the shadow-distractions are, along with the surrounding clamor of branches…how often do I look through a thicket of distraction to realize my Savior’s face is near?
PHILLIPS denotes Scripture quotations taken from The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
NRSVCE denotes Scripture quotations taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. [b]John 20:16 That is, Aramaic
TPT denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com