We had a couple of gorgeous days Friday and Saturday of last week, just in time for the first moments of spring. I left work mid-afternoon Friday to put my hands in the soil of the vegetable garden for the first time this year.
I am fairly good about keeping up with the garden during its season, but I’m terrible about putting it to bed in the winter. I guess that I’m thinking I have more pressing things to do at work or home, and cleaning the dead stuff out of the garden can wait. It always does.
We garden in four long raised beds. One of them contains the asparagus, which comes back each year. We rotate crops in the other three. So on Friday I chose one of them to hold the early crops (greens, Brussels sprouts, peas, onions, parsley), and got to work.
Pulling the dead plants from last year and the few spring weeds isn’t difficult work, and it’s very satisfying. The finished product is a garden cleaned of all the things that don’t belong there in the spring, almost ready to plant, and full of possibility. I say “almost ready,” because I always improve the soil with compost, peat moss, and a little organic fertilizer.
At the end of the day, I was left with too little time to plant, but a garden bed ready to receive plants and seeds, soak up sun and water, and produce good stuff from now through October.
I have to admit, it still doesn’t look alive, because it is empty. But it is prepared.
Much of our yearly faith journey is about preparation. In Advent we prepare for Christmas. In Lent we prepare for Easter. Since Lent always coincides with spring planting in this part of the world, each year I find my first gardening experience to be a Lenten exercise.
This week we come to Palm/Passion Sunday. Both the “Palm” part of the story (Jesus entering Jerusalem and the people throwing down palm branches in celebration and honor, Luke 19:28-40) and the “Passion” part (the trial and crucifixion, Luke 22:14—23:56) are about preparation, in a sense.
Everything in the gospels has led us to this point. And everything in these two stories leads us to what will come after: resurrection and beyond.
If we are to be able to receive what is good about the Good News, we must empty ourselves of the things that prevent new life from growing. We pull out the weeds of bad choices and decisions that choke out the good. We discard the things from the past that hold us back or are no longer helpful.
And there we have it. Not exactly a blank slate, but a prepared heart. Ready to receive once again the grace of God. Ready to move through Holy Week with room for God’s love to be planted, once more. Receptive space. Just waiting.