As usual, I was up early this morning. I made the familiar drive to a local shopping area to visit a familiar grocery store to pick up milk and a few other items. Pulling into a parking space, I noticed that the American flag that graces a prominent spot on the premises was flying at half-mast . . . again. It seems that American flags are frequently flying at half-mast these days, and the thought crossed my mind that, with all that’s going on in our country, American flags might not make it back to full mast any time soon.
For some reason, Joni Mitchell’s song, Woodstock, popped into my head. This is the song that memorializes the Woodstock Music & Art Fair held in White Lake, NY, in August 1969. I was a freshly turned nineteen years old then and missed Woodstock, but I did make it to a similar extravaganza the following summer called the Atlanta Pop Festival held near Byron, GA. It was there that I saw Jimi Hendrix perform. He would be dead less than three months later.
Back to Joni Mitchell and Woodstock – the short chorus in this song ends with the phrase, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. The garden alluded to in this chorus is the Garden of Eden, a literal and metaphorical utopia, free from strife, free from pain, free from hatred, free from the Viet Nam War that was raging at the time – a symbol of peace and love, the counter-culture mantra of the late sixties. According to the biblical Book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve inhabited this garden, they were free from sin, but because of their sin, they, and mankind as a result, were expelled from the garden, hence the need to “get back to the garden.”
So far, so good. I would agree with Ms. Mitchell that it would be great to get back to the garden, to get back to being able to fly our flags at full mast. Her mistake, and the mistake of the typical secular humanist, is in thinking that we can get ourselves back to the garden. There is but one way to true peace and true love, the way of the Lord.
Acts 2 captures the scene of the preaching of the first Christian sermon. Peter reveals the sin of the people of that time and we’re told that they were “cut to the heart” and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do,” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s response, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
We can’t get ourselves back to the garden, but we can find peace and love through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. How? Through confession of our sin and the forgiveness of that sin that follows. This is our only hope personally, and this is our only hope as a nation. Will our flags fly high again?