Many of you will have noticed the title is taken from Psalm 23 which is also the theme of the Bible Society garden at Chelsea (winner of both a gold medal and ‘best sanctuary garden’). This has great local connections, it was the idea of a lady at a church in Winchester, several of our Parish have been involved in its development and when the show is over the garden will be donated to the new Winchester Hospice so the residents and visitors will have a place where they may find peace and comfort.
You may have noticed it on television as it has had great coverage on TV and in the press and will be featured in an upcoming Songs of Praise. But more importantly than winning medals this has given us an opportunity to talk about faith and hope in times of trouble with a wider audience than ever before. The ongoing benefit will be to help and encourage churches around the country to develop their open spaces to engage and connect with their local communities in a new way.
If you are going to Chelsea make sure you visit the Psalm 23 garden (I will be there on Thursday and Friday).
In this rural community we all know the importance of looking after the land and in the mainly farming culture of the Bible it used illustrations from the world around. But the connection goes deeper than that. The prophets warn against the destruction of the carefully tended vineyards, implying that the care of growing things is akin to the care of society. In the Song of Solomon it’s in the sweet-scented setting of a flowering garden that love blossoms.
Jesus frequently used parables built around planting, flourishing, and harvesting. When visiting the busy city of Jerusalem he used to retire to the garden of Gethsemane to pray – Judas knew he would find him there when he sought to betray him.
When Jesus was crucified his body was laid to rest in a tomb in a garden. And when Jesus appears to Mary she mistakes him for, yes, a gardener.
In the Bible, gardens and gardeners aren’t an afterthought. They are the past, present and future. This garden at Chelsea is designed to show that however deep and dark our valleys when we trust in God he will lead us to still quiet waters where we will find peace.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Gerry Stacey LLM