"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Finishing a thought...

Faithful cross above all other,
one and only noble tree,
none in foliage none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peer may be.


These ancient words came to mind this week as I was percolating my sermon for today. As I read the lesson in Ecclesiasties about vanity and the trinkets we gather, my thoughts turned to slavery and what life looks like without Christ. The preacher is clear that without the Word the life is lost from before conception. And Paul, in Colossians 3 sets the comparison image in even better focus, put off the evil ways and put on the fruits of the Gospel. And as my mind wandered deeper, into meditation and out of sermon, I pondered the fruits of the two different trees in the Garden. Knowledge of Good and Evil, that ancient tree, brings forth the blighted fruit Paul warns against, immorality, deceipt, evil desire, greed. That ancient tree brings forth the wrath of God and stands between us and the tree of life. Genesis 3 makes it clear, man cannot eat from both trees, either he must grow accustomed to the sticky sweet of rotted fruit, or he may eat freely of the tree of life. Never both; for to allow man to live in blighted rottenness forever, consuming both evil and immortality is cruelty.

So in the garden, God removed the tree of life.

The tree of life is promised to us again in the new heaven and earth. In the final two chapters of the Bible, as in the first two, the tree stands prominently in the midst of the Garden, man eating freely of it.

But what about today? I pondered Paul's words, put to death that which is earthly in you... put it to death. Why such severe language? It is because death is the prerequisite for resurrection. Because you are so far from your old slave masters as to be dead to sin, dead to death. So put to death the old master's blighted fruit. Put to death the fruit of the old tree.

But if the tree of life, the new tree to which we are promised access is only in the renewed Kingdom, then all we have is pie-in-the sky religion, and practical everyday spiritual starvation.

But it is the nature of God to take the symbols of this broken world and turn them upside down; thus it is that an instrument of death, of curse, -- cursed, says the Law, is him who hangs on the tree-- to become the tree of life and blessing. The dead wood of the cross becomes the tree of life, the son of God becomes accursed that we might be blessed, death gives way to resurrection and immortality.

It makes sense, then, doesn't it, that Jesus says in John's Gospel that whoever does not eat his flesh will have no part in him, for the fruit which hangs on the tree of life is the Lord himself. He who does not not eat of the tree of life, will surely die. There is no other option.

All of this leads, no doubt, to some very interesting Eucharistic theology, does it not?

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