Although this liturgical season after Easter is full of alleluias, the world seems filled with cries of anguish. We watch the daily news of human brutality and war. We continue to participate in everyday systems of plunder that put our ecosystem at risk. We wonder at the polarized voices speaking over each other, entrenched in their positions. The gap between the wealthy and poor continues to widen as many are forced to choose between buying bread or buying their medications. Systems of white supremacy continue to degrade the lives of BIPOC people. At a time like this it seems to me it is important to read again and again the story in John’s Gospel of that early Sunday revelation on the third day. The text tells us that Mary Magdalene stood at the tomb weeping, not comprehending where the Lord could have been taken. Then John says she “caught sight of Jesus standing there. But she did not know him.” (New American Bible) She presumed he was the gardener. She doesn’t really see Jesus until he calls her by name, Mary.
He must have looked like a gardener. And why not? What better way to teach us that resurrection is simple as seed, profound as the persistent green life that somehow pushes its way through the cold earth every year. Recounting this greatest of miracles, the victory over death, the gospel tells us that resurrection is as common as the seasons, as sure as the cycle of life. The gift and grace of resurrection is the ground of resilience, the will to go on, and the courage to try again. But often our doubt and hard-heartedness prevent us from seeing the possible, from believing in the signs of new life, from trusting that love and justice will prevail.
But then the gardener calls us by name. Can you listen to Jesus saying your name right now? This is a personal invitation to enter the mystery, to know again the profound promise that life is greater than death, that in every moment God offers us the Way. No matter what we are doing, no matter how small or great the task, the moment is filled with God’s presence luring us toward love and justice. Even when we feel powerless and the ills of the world seem to be insurmountable, God shows us a step forward. Even when we walk in the valley of grief and loss, God appears in a bright memory or a story shared by a friend. Even when we think we are not enough, not good enough, not strong enough, not articulate enough, God reminds us that we bear the image and likeness of the divine. The life that conquers death is within us. The love that reaches out in unconditional inclusion is within us. The justice that seeks to blossom in systems and structures and simple human interactions of every kind lives in our hearts. Resurrection is constant, simple and profound as seed. God promises new life and challenges us to move toward love and justice in every step. God promises to be with us.
SIMPLE AS SEED by Gary Boelhower
Beyond the tragedy and terror
Beyond the fear that we are powerless and lost
Beyond the doubt that rises like acid
Beyond even our own betrayal and blindness
You meet us as the gardener.
Not with the splendor of transfiguration
Not in the brilliance of miracles
Not even the power of a parable
Not now, not after the cross
You show yourself as the gardener, simple as seed.
We almost don’t notice, we almost can’t believe
Until you call us by name
Call us by family, by flesh.
You call us to the garden again
Where every spring you teach us to open the hard soil,
Work in the dead leaves from last year’s letting go
Make a line in the dirt, not as threat or boundary
But as nest, womb, home in the warming loam.
We lay the tiny vesicles of hope
Small hard seeds with not a hint of green.
You teach us to plant
To believe beyond all the signs of insignificance
You promise abundance from this simple gesture
From this little ritual all we need.
Beyond all the disasters, the hurts, the losses,
You are the gardener teaching us again
That the rhythm and rhyme of all time
Will lure the smallest hope into life.
You teach us to set the seed with tenderness
To water, to bless the sun, to pray with patience,
And your promise never fails.
Dr. Gary Boelhower has been teaching and writing for 51 years. He is professor emeritus in Theology and Religious Studies at The College of St. Scholastica and an award-winning poet and writer. He’s published 4 volumes of poetry, three books on theology and spirituality and, most recently, his first children’s picture book—A Common Thirst.