Easter reminds us that God transforms human failures.

I once read in a collection of sermons of a pastor who, fresh from a visit to the Holy Land, had a great vision: He would erect a garden, a place of prayer, a chapel in his home town of Covington, Kentucky. This garden would bring the Holy Land to persons who would never have the opportunity to see it.

He purchased land and solicited contributions. Flowers and trees from 24 countries were gathered and planted. The carpenter’s shop contained tools from Nazareth. A replica of the open tomb added the Easter spark. Overlooking the entire project stood a gigantic statue of Jesus, which could be seen for miles. In 1959, after 21 years of labor, the pastor opened his beautiful dream park to the public. He called it “The Garden of Hope.”

Almost immediately, however, the Garden of Hope became a source of disappointment. The tropical plants and trees, which could not adapt to the new climate, began to die. But worst of all, because the park did not attract the anticipated number of visitors, it ran into financial difficulties and finally went bankrupt. Soon the Garden of Hope degenerated into a vision of tragedy. Weeds grew everywhere. The chapel was padlocked. And the lonely statue of Jesus fell into disrepair.

The failed Garden of Hope is an apt symbol of our generation. In the 1960s, people in our land were filled with optimism. The outlook for the future was good, we were told. No problem was so large that it could not be solved, given enough time and money. The expansionism of the Eisenhower years gave way to John F. Kennedy’s brief, shining Camelot. After the tragedy of Dallas, our new leader, Lyndon Johnson, rekindled the hope, convincing us the Great ...

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