Have you ever heard the parable of the Invisible Gardener?
As two friends walk through the woods, they come upon a clearing free of weeds and containing several unusually healthy tulips. The one friend comments, “There must be a gardener that comes and tends to these beautiful tulips.” The other more skeptical friend disagrees. They argue but finally decide to camp next to the clearing and wait. They wait in silence but no gardener is seen. The friend theorizes that the gardener must be invisible. So they set bloodhounds around the clearing. Still no gardener is detected. So, according to the one friend, the gardener must also be scentless. They put up a giant fence around the clearing, but still no gardener. Perhaps the gardener can walk through walls? The skeptical friend disagrees, “This invisible, scentless, intangible gardener is really no gardener at all!”
This idea of God is often called the “god of the gaps.” The criticism levied against our faith is that we simply believe in God as a way to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. The need for God as an explanation continues to dwindle as the gaps are being increasingly filled by modern scientific discoveries. The argument goes that God is just an excuse for mental laziness or a superstitious alternative to saying “I don’t know.”
While this might be the conception of many Christians, the Scriptures represent a much different picture of God. He is no “invisible gardener.” For example, in the Gospel lesson on Sunday Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9b).” Throughout the Bible God constantly reveals himself to humankind. Furthermore Jesus makes the positive claim that he is the most perfect revelation of God himself.
It’s more than a bit ironic that in the context of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the Bible refers to Jesus as a gardener (John 20:15). Jesus came to repair and redeem the world wrecked by the disobedience of the first gardener, Adam. God the Son, the not-so-invisible gardener, entered physical history and proved through his words and works that God is real and that God is love.
We don’t worship an Invisible Gardener. As Christians we worship a God who has revealed himself to us in space and time. Our claim is a positive claim. We believe that in history, in Jesus of Nazareth, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, and next to a cave owned by Joseph of Arimathea, the Gardener has shown up in the flesh to work in his garden. He has shown up to clear our hearts of the weeds of sin and tend to his people, making them beautiful again.
So when someone asks you to show them the invisible God, point them to Jesus.