I’m reading morning prayers in the basement, never expecting it to come to that. It began innocently with short, subterranean trips to tame-clean the area; a project undertaken so my family won't cringe during visits to the laundry.Soon the walls were white-washed, bright posters were hung, and all stray tools and thingamabobs had labels in containers. It was bliss in the Shaker way of “cast your eyes on order and you will feel peace.”
The downstairs now had a beckoning garden quality of safety, coherence, and contentment. It also had a profound effect on thought as busy activity moved around on the floor above. Here, it was quiet and still--you moved around but into the depths. While I was on a desert retreat a retired cleric told me he was there “to make an archaeological dig on himself.” I thought that was novel and maybe a journey too-late. But gardens find you when they do.
So, from my folding chair near the work bench and from this garden it occurred to me there are lots of these places but not all are meant to be taken seriously. Rabbi Donniel Hartman speaks of differing descriptions of the Garden of Eden--one in Genesis 1, the other in Genesis 2. In the latter, God visits his creation and forbids eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. It’s a myth loaded with commandment, violation, and judgment. The first creation story, however, in chapter one, tells of a generative God who makes humankind as a likeness with a simple direction-not limited to the garden-for all creation: multiply, have dominion, it’s yours.
In the second garden humankind is driven from the premises but in the first garden it is implicit that leaving will be the dynamic and meaningful thing to do. Both these versions are meant to inform us as bi-polar truths on a life quest. However, it is my worry that the institutional church is preoccupied with the second story while missing the effusive grandeur of the first and it’s loud celestial declaration…to be!
My diagnosis has flaws. Such archaeological study can help us discern why ecclesial entities consider their first-rung responsibility to quantify a restoration, inferring a product line of correction and relief.
Rather than being festooned with ceremony and hierarchy isn’t a way more entirely focused on God’s commandment to live into one’s destiny and addressing where societal (and individual) obstacles interrupt that course more in keeping with what God has set us to do?