I hear the last line of the poem every spring, “Practice Resurrection.”
I weed and spread compost and loosen soil packed from the weight of snow, "Practice Resurrection.”
I shower water on clay earth hard and cracked from insufficient moisture last year and desperate for a nice long drink. "Practice Resurrection."
I use my hands to sweep away brown leaves and yellow dried grasses as gently as I can to not uproot the tiny runners and sprouts already growing. “Practice Resurrection.”
The line of poetry belongs to Wendell Berry's poem called the "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front". The poem is written from a voice fed up with our current consumeristic culture that is always looking for a quick profit. It is a charge to live against the grain and to value the things that seem absurd and backward in our world.
And while I have not spoken with Wendell Berry about what he meant by practicing resurrection - gardening, for me, is little hint of what it might look like.
Our first home purchase was a house with great bones but deeply in need of love. The backyard was largely unkempt from years of renters who had little regard for upkeep. The stretch of soil that is now our garden was a patch of weeds, chalk full of thistles and dandelions that stretched deep into the soil and whose roots measured as long as your arm.
For weeks we worked away at it. A few hours might gain a few feet cleared of weeds. Sunburns and blisters to show for our work. And finally they were cleared and we brought new, soft soil and spread it and planted and reaped the goodness of the earth.
With every weed pulled out and every seed planted I felt as though a little bit more of the Kingdom of God, a little more resurrection had come to our neighbourhood. We planted and we waited and we watched. And then it happen- tiny sprouts began to grow, bees came to the flowers and the delicate white blossoms turned to strawberries. The sunflowers and delphiniums grew and towered over our fence bringing beautiful sight lines to my eyes as I washed the dishes and prepared meals and greeted those walking through the dreary alley.
The strawberries became jam passed in jars over fences to neighbours. The delphiniums cut and given as gifts in vases to adorn other tables in the city. The pumpkins, however small, were stored and then carved with pride at Halloween and became little beacons of warmth and light into the dark fall night. The abundance of vegetables creates meals to be shared with family and gifts given away.
The dried sunflower stalks became decorations for my children's playhouse and they sat and watched with rapt attention as a joyful feeding frenzie of song birds descended on the structure. They marveled at the little creatures and wonders of creations brought just a few feet from their faces.
This is what happens when I practice resurrection. It spreads well beyond my own act and creates shalom. Things feel a little more whole and bellies a little less empty. It opens my children's hearts to the wonder of creation and most importantly - the joy of the Creator.
It provides an opportunity to participate with the Great Gardener in bringing his Kingdom because it moves against the great cogs of utilitarianism and efficiency to restore beauty and generosity to the world.
And here’s the thing is- my garden is not impressive. You might think so by how much I talk about it or by how much joy it brings me or all the life lessons I draw from it. But it is humble. A simple plot of 3 feet by 30 feet. It is small and I’m not a seasoned gardener, I have just been changed by it. Changed by these small seedlings that carry their very tombs on their leaves as they burst forth in new life.
Practicing resurrection, whether in gardens, pottery wheels, people’s souls, old pianos, broken down cars or homes is a worthwhile practice. I practice it because it brings me joy and hope and it is God's grace that it spreads to others. Resurrection has been the way that God has blessed the world and began His great restoration plan for the world.
Whatever it looks like for you - do it. Find somewhere to sow beauty in your life. Find somewhere to practice resurrection. See where it takes both you and others. See how your eyes and others eyes are opened more significantly to the resurrected one - to His heart for the world and His heart for you.
May the Resurrected one be present in your world today and may we live lives that look backward to the world and bring glory to God. Amen.