Walking in the Garden

I’ve found a magic money tree.  Really.  It’s on the Llanberis path just past halfway house on the way up Yr Wyddfa.  This picture doesn’t do it justice, you’ll have to go and see for yourself, though you’ll be hard pushed to find a space to press a coin into it.  (There are plenty of others around here, often on mountain paths.  I’ll come back to that image in a minute.)  I wonder what this story from Genesis means to us?  It begins: 

“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ Genesis 3:8-9

For it to make any sense at all we have to understand that those who wrote it lived in a different world to our own.  The same earth, but a different time and culture perhaps as much as 3500 years ago for this text – comparatively recently, compared to the life of the earth itself some 4.5 billion years old.  Therefore very relevant to our culture and time too.  How many of us have heard the call, ‘Where are you?’  We talk often about going in search of a ‘spiritual experience’ or seeking the divine.  We have built churches, temples, mosques, sacred meeting halls even suggesting that these are the ‘house’ of God, so we can come in and find God here, as if God might be sitting, waiting for us to show up.  This all reminds me of the poem ‘The Empty Church by R.S. Thomas, “They set this stone trap for him, like a moth to a flame, he will come no more to our lure.”  Have we lost the innocence of life which allows us to walk through the garden and hear the sound of God calling to us.  Where are you?  It requires a different mind to be open to listen, rather than to go out and to search, almost knowing before hand the experience that we seek.  And if we continue with that genesis reading a little, to be in the presence of God without feeling embarrassed.  For now we have been ‘enlightened’ by the age of reason.  Not only that we are naked, but that our whole life has been enlightened, (well some of it).  No longer do we need ‘God’ for we have become able to understand everything for ourselves.  The Sun and the other stars move not around the Earth as once was believed, (typical of the human to believe that we are at the centre.)  But still now folk out walking feel it is sensible and appropriate to press coins into a tree or a stump.  For what purpose? In order perhaps to be blessed or feel safe on a journey or even as once was the custom to ‘pay the spirits’ of a place for safe passage through their domain.  That’s something worth keeping in mind, for it almost suggests that there is still an undercurrent of understanding that  considers the whole earth itself to be a spiritual place, one in which we might hear the call, ‘Where are you?’  When was the last time we stopped trying to go to God and allowed God to come to us.  I was walking through fields with friends this last week and was reminded of the point of Zen which is to let all thought pass away, to allow yourself to be consciously in a moment of not thinking.  The call ‘Where are you?’ Is necessary because the man and the woman realised that they had been naked.  They hid not because anyone took their clothes, but because they had realised.  Let’s change what we feel about this passage by moving the genre of writing from history to poetic response to an experience. It then stops being a description of events, but a description of an experience of being in the presence of God and a confession that something has got in the way of our ability to experience God.  In the case of this man and woman, it was their shame at being naked.  What gets in the way for us?  To the call, ‘Where are you?’ We could reply, (if we heard it at all) we’re here, behind all this stuff, wait a moment whilst we move a few things out of the way and then we will probably get distracted again by something needing our attention.  Jesus asks those who seek him,  Who are my brothers and my sisters? – I’m with them he says, they are all around, so to can be our experience, if only we would listen out for the call.

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