As I watch the Community Garden behind our parsonage grow more and more luscious everyday, as I drive across Saunders County—past fields of corn and soy beans, as I hear farmers in both congregations talk about their daily work, I am brought back to the genesis of this relationship between people and the land. Before he ever eats any fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, before he sins against God and others, before he is given a partner in the woman formed from his rib--before he ever does a single thing—we hear that the man, Adam, is placed in Eden and given his first task by God: to till and keep the garden (Gen. 2:15). This one short verse in our second creation narrative serves as the beginning of humanity’s relationship with, and for, God’s good creation. The words used in the Hebrew are: abad [aw-bad] meaning to till, work, or labor, and shamar [shaw-mar] meaning to keep, watch, preserve, tend, or protect. God’s instruction to the man is simple: work the land, and care for it. This is a truly fascinating concept to ponder: the man’s life in the garden begins with working the land--not as a dreary task, but something that is life-giving and meaningful. We never hear the man (nor the woman later on) say: “Damn, I wish I were doing something else—anything more interesting.” Only after (and in response to) the man’s sinfulness does God speak of his working the land as a hardship (Gen. 3:17-19). Instead, at first, the call to cultivate is a beautiful invitation to participate with God in this act of co-creating by caring for the garden.
Whether we live in inner-city Omaha or less than an hour west in rural Mead [insert your own relevant geographical particularities here], all of humanity shares not only in Adam’s sin, but perhaps more importantly the call to work and preserve the land we have been placed in. God creates; we each are invited to dirty our hands alongside God in the planting, nurturing, and harvesting of this beautiful world we call home. For some, this call is answered in an agricultural occupation. For others, it means taking the small but necessary steps of reflecting on how we interact with our environment and considering both what we put into the ground and take out of it. This is not a political protest for strict or exaggerated rules and regulations; but instead, a pastoral call for mindfulness, respect, and intentional responsibility in stewarding God’s good creation. Created to care for both the land and others, may our hearts and minds be plowed by the Spirit, so that we may (re)enter into the garden and love the whole world around us, such as Crucified and Risen Christ sows the seed that is God’s abundant love for all of creation.