Tag Archives: Tree of Life

The Family of Adam & Eve Today

Sermon given for the 1st Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018. The Lenten sermons will be focusing on various families in the Old Testament. 

Opening scripture (in the New Living Translation):

Genesis 3:2-24, 4:1-2,8-10

     20 Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. 21 And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.

     22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. 24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

     4:1Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

. . .One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

     Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

     10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

. . . 25 Adam had sexual relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to another son. She named him Seth for she said, “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 26 When Seth grew up, he had a son and named him Enosh. At that time people first began to worship the Lord by name.

 

 

Reflection: The Family of Adam & Eve Today

 

In college, I learned an e. e. cummings’ poem by memory:

 

Fleas

Adam

Had ‘em.

 

Ok, I know, not a tough poem to commit to memory, but the thing is those four words have left an impression that has stayed with me to this day. The meaning of this poem is in the symbolic meaning of each word.

 

Fleas—one of the most basic irritations in our world

Adam—one name that represents all humanity, not one individual

Had ‘em—every body has the same basic irritations, now as well                                   as in the past as well as in the future.

 

The truth is that ever since time began humans–regardless of gender, nationality, age or any other qualifier–humans have problems. There is absolutely no doubt that everybody is going to have trouble at one time or another.

Just like a poem by a contemporary poet, the Bible is filled with stories, poems, prayers, hymns, lectures, or narratives providing readers guidance since it was first published. The Bible we read today was the result of over 400 years debate [Chronology accessed on February 16, 2018 at http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-43/how-we-got-our-bible-christian-history-timeline.html%5D:

  1. 1400–400 B.C.Books of the Hebrew Old Testament written
  2. 250–200 B.C.The Septuagint, a popular Greek translation of the Old Testament, produced

A.D. 45–85? Books of the Greek New Testament written

90 and 118 Councils of Jamnia give final affirmation to the Old Testament canon (39 books)

140-150 Marcion’s heretical “New Testament” incites orthodox Christians to establish a NT canon

303-306 Diocletian’s persecution includes confiscating and destroying New Testament Scriptures

  1. 305-310Lucian of Antioch’s Greek New Testament text; becomes a foundation for later Bibles

367 Athanasius’s Festal Letter lists complete New Testament canon (27 books) for the first time

397 Council of Carthage establishes orthodox New Testament canon (27 books)

  1. 400Jerome translates the Bible into Latin; this “Vulgate” becomes standard of medieval church

 

Obviously the process of translating and annotating the Bible has continued since the 5th century, but the chronology reminds us that the stories of the Bible began as oral tradition even before it was put into a written or published format.

Reading the Bible’s story provides us in the 21st century the guidance it takes to live a faithful life centered around the triune God. The Church of the Resurrection’s stained glass window features a wide range of stories from the Old Testament and the New Testament around the images of the three trees. During the weeks of Lent, the stories of the Biblical Old Testament families are going to be considered. We are going to look at the life lessons that we can learn from even in this century, regardless of where the story is identified along humanity’s timeline.

Today, Adam and Eve are listed as the first family in the Bible. Their story begins in the Garden of Eden, but ends with the same challenges any family today may confront. After being cast out of the garden, they are forced to make a living for themselves and their children. They are just like us, even if the story begins in the Garden of Eden.

We all know the story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but let’s concentrate on what happened next. The story in Genesis 4 tells us that they had two boys, Cain and Abel. The cultural expectations or traditions identified the roles society assigns to these two men, but the gift of free choice God provided humans creates the potential for making the wrong choices.

One thing leads to another, and Cain kills his own brother Abel. The family is sent into crisis. We know that conflicts between siblings often lead to a family imploding, and Adam’s and Eve’s story is no different than families today.

The news is filled with stories of families in crisis, and even this week as we hear the stories out of Florida, we know the harsh reality of families in crisis. Adam and Eve had to have questioned what they did or did not do that led to one son killing another son. They had to confront the pain of loss in two ways—death of a son and the exile of another.

What happened to Adam and Eve? For many, the story ended with Cain killing Abel. But the story continued. Looking deeper into Genesis, readers learn that Adam and Eve had a third son Seth—along with other sons and daughters.

Life continued for the father and mother just like life continues for all living parents after a tragedy. Nothing in the Biblical record says that they gave up; instead, it tells us that they continued living and the family grew.

Why, then does the story only include the name of Seth and then simply says that there were other sons and daughters?   Reading through study notes and Harper Collin’s Bible Dictionary, an answer developed: the names of children are identified when they contribute to their faithfulness to God.

Another words, the Bible identifies who should be models of faithful behaviors as well as those who are not faithful. All the other sons and daughters may be important family members, but they are not in the direct lineage of how the faithful continued the story forward to the birth of Jesus Christ.

That lineage connects the family stories that we will consider during Lent as we lead up to the story of Jesus during Holy Week. The story of Adam and Eve is the beginning and connects to Jesus as outlined in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Remember that Paul was well-educated in the Jewish history and religion. He qualified the relationship in Romans 5:

Closing scripture (NLT)

Romans 5

     12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

     18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

     20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

The most familiar story of Adam and Eve is filled with challenges that included murder within the family. Yet, God’s story continues as the family grew and a third son remains faithful. The next family story is that of Noah. He is a descendent from Seth, the faithful son of Adam and Eve.

Today, we must read the stories of the Old Testament families in order to find the lessons for our own lives today. We know the heartbreak of sons and daughters who are not faithful to God. We know the pain of loss in so many forms. These are the fleas of human life and the Bible tells us that even Adam and Eve had fleas. Our decisions as faithful followers depend on reading the stories and learning how to make the decisions, continuing to love one another as we want to be loved.

Closing prayer:

Dear loving and patient Father,

As we enter into Lent,

We wonder what there is to learn.

We hear the stories

from the ancient scriptures

seeking new insight.

 

Adam and Eve shared

The same challenges

We do yet today.

They made mistakes,

They struggled with family,

And still they lived knowing you.

You never left them

Just as you never leave us.

 

This week, let us reflect

How even when we err

Or others in our family err,

You continue to offer forgiveness.

 

Forgive us, Lord,

For our doubts and mistakes.

Strengthen us to continue living,

Doing all the good we can

Not only in our personal family

But in our community

So that others may know

Your unending grace and love. –Amen

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Icy morning thoughts on the Tree of Life

IMG_2086Since we had to cancel church due to the thin, but dangerous ice coating, I am thinking about my message concerning the Tree of Life.  The more I read and study scripture, the more I realize the significance of the symbolism.

Today, we are confined due to the ice, but that does not confine our hearts and minds.  The Tree of Life symbolizes two concepts:  The Church that continues to carry Jesus’ teachings on through time and eternal life.

The Church is not the denomination, The Church is the work of the faithful who see all the ways to love one another.  We were watching the news and caught an add from Massachuettes Mutual Insurance.  The entire ad clearly documented all the good that is done all around this country when one loves one another.  It was so impressive.

Sadly, the message had to be funded by a corporation, but the message is worth every penny spent in making and airing it.  Thank you to Mass Mutual for doing so.  We need a reminder of all the good that does exist in our world.

In the stained glass window now installed at Leawood, KS’s Church of the Resurrection, the Tree of Life is surrounded by all the saints that continued carrying Jesus’ message of loving one another throughout history.  The Church is alive and it is something that we are quick to forget or to overlook.

The Tree of Life also has a second symbolic message–eternal life.  This is a sticky subject for many, but as I step outside into the natural world of the ice covered yard, the birds singing, the sun trying to peak out, and the breeze (even when it is only 16 degrees), I am renewed with the knowledge that even in the depth of winter, new life does exist.

Eternal life is no mystery for me.  Eternal life is a life cycle.  There is birth, earthly existence, death and then eternity.  I cannot look up to the night sky and see all the possibility of life beyond my human understanding.  I cannot accept that when this human form dies, the spirit dies.  I believe.

The Tree of Life stands firm in my life.  I look at the Celtic images and see the unending knot woven into their designs and I feel a sense of peace.  I study the Celtic Tree of Life and understand how complex and promising the life cycle that it represents.  And I thank God for getting to live this life and for the promise that remains.

Lent begins this week and I find it difficult to see these next few weeks filled with depressive thoughts and sorrow.  I anticipate the renewal of life as winter ends and spring begins.  Still, I suppose, we all need time to reevaluate our lives and consciously reflect on how we have lived and how we can improve.  Therefore, I will work to prepare sermons based the Old Testament families who struggled to remain faithful and whose life experiences provide us today with lessons on remaining faithful to God and following Jesus’ teaching to love one another.

Winter has its grip on us today with the coating of ice, but the mind never has to be frozen.  Use today to add to your own understanding of God’s messages.  Look closely at the Tree of Life in all its visual representations shared on the web, and find hope.

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The Message of the Trees: The Tree of Life

Sunday, February 11, 2018 arrived coated in ice, therefore no service was held due to the road conditions.  We will resume next Sunday with a recap of this final sermon based on the trees of Church of Resurrection’s stained glass window in Leawood, KS.  As Feb. 18 begins Lent, we will also
begin a series 

images

based on Old Testament families.

 

Scripture connections: (using New Living Translation)

 

Genesis 2:9

The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

 

Proverbs 3:18 and 11:30

                  3:18Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
happy are those who hold her tightly.

 

11:30The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life;
a wise person wins friends.

 

Revelations 22 (esp. 2, 14, 19)

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,[a] with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

                                    3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

                                    6 Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets,[b] has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.[c]

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.[d]

                                    8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!”

                                    10 Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

                                    12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

                                    14 Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. 15 Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

                                    16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne.[e] I am the bright morning star.”

                                    17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. 18 And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.

                                    20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

                                    21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.[f]

 

Reflection:

 

Yes, in our community we are in the dead of winter and grasping for the seasonal change with spring breezes, warm sunshine, and glimpses of yellow and purple blooms of jonquils and crocus peeking up at us. The cycle of life is repeated every year, and yet somehow humans fear the cycle of human life. Birth and death are simply part of the life cycle, yet fear and trepidation develops between the two seasons.

Looking at the COR’s stained glass window and considering the messages of the trees might help us manage some of the irrational and emotional fears that develop as we journey through our lives. The first message we considered was that of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We accept that as humans we err; we fail to trust that God will provide for all of our needs; we fail to love one another in almost every way one might imagine.

The second tree, the Tree of the Cross, provides hope. God loves us so unconditionally he kept giving his people opportunity after opportunity to make the right decision. And the people failed. Not just once, but generation after generation after generation his people failed to trust that God would provide. Yet God never gave up and decided to join the human world in the body of Jesus Christ and teach and demonstrate the simple principle of “love one another.”

The Tree of the Cross reminds us that even as God walked beside us, we failed. The gospels share the story and show how evil forces tried to destroy God’s message by destroying the human body. Yet, God’s message delivered through Jesus Christ is alive and that leads us to the third tree in the stained glass window: The Tree of Life.

Introduced in Genesis 2:9, the Tree of Life is mentioned as planted in the Garden of Eden alongside the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet the significance of the Tree of Life is more fully explained in the last book of the Bible: Revelations 22, the final chapter in the final book of the Bible.

And that leads us to ask, “What is the message of the Tree of Life?”

The Tree of Life is personal to me. Certainly being raised on a farm with a mother who loved nature has contributed to my passion for trees, but I also feel drawn to the Celtic image of the Tree of Life. There is no logical explanation for my love of the image, but maybe, just maybe it is because my grandpa was born on March 17 and was Welsh-Irish. At least that is how I was raised and have not found anything to repudiate that understanding.

Still, the Celtic image of the Tree of Life explains visually what I understand developed in scripture. The Genesis verse simply mentions it, and not until reading the adages in Proverbs does the phrase return:

 

                  3:18Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
happy are those who hold her tightly.

 

Wisdom goes back to the message of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Wisdom is knowing what is good and choosing to make good choices in our lives. The result of growing in wisdom leads to a happy life—remember the Christmas gifts that won’t break: hope, joy, peace, and love. Living life making wise choices results in a life filled with hope, joy, peace and love. That is a complete formula for happiness and in this proverb wisdom is a tree of life.

The second proverb that refers to the Tree of Life shows that those who are wise, who have found true happiness, are to share that wisdom:

 

11:30The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life;
a wise person wins friends.

The meaning of the Tree of Life in these proverbs creates an understanding that living a wise life, choosing and sharing good deeds, creates a happy life filled with hope, joy, peace and love. The message of the trees could end there, but look at the last chapter of Revelation and the significance of the imagery extends beyond our human experience. And this brings me back to the imagery of the Celtic Tree of Life.

Googling the Celtic Tree of Life, the explanations all say the same thing (and when searching the web, one must be diligent not to be misled). One of the most straightforward explained the symbolic drawing:

Celtic knots are known as endless knots because they don’t have a beginning or end. They represent how nature is eternal. Celtic Tree of Life knots represent the roots and branches of a tree woven together without end, showing the continuous cycle of life on earth. [Accessed on February 8, 2018 at http://www.astrologyoftheancients.com/celtic-tree-of-life/

]

Even Wikipedia and other sites defined the symbolism of the Celtic Tree of Life like this.

Study the image included in the bulletin/post today. The artist draws the Celtic knot even in the roots of the tree. The knots remove time. In fact, as the explanation shares, the Celtic knots represent how nature is eternal—there is no beginning or end.

The Tree of Life in Revelation 22 continues God’s promise that if we trust in him and live life loving one another, life continues even after our worldly life journey:

1Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

                  3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

 

Reading prophetic words can be difficult; and John, who wrote Revelations, understands this as he continues this final chapter:

 

10 Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

 

As Christians, the Bible repeatedly tells us that we are to not only live faithful lives, but we are to actively share God’s message and love one another as we want to be loved. Following the Bible’s instruction is how we “sow seeds of good deeds that become the tree of life.”   Sowing seed of good deeds continues the life cycle as visually represented in the Celtic’s Tree of Life images.

Returning to the COR’s stained glass window, the vitality of the Tree of Life is clearly contrasted to the wilting, yellowing leaves of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the harsh, dead wood that is used in the Tree of the Cross. The message of the Tree of Life, first introduced in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and included in the adages of Proverbs is the concluding message of the Bible in Revelations.

Being disciplined to read the Bible is key to finding the wisdom for life in this crazy evil-filled world. Joining in conversation with others reading the Bible and making life decisions of good versus evil makes our life journey easier. How this is done is revealed in the images surrounding the Tree of Life in the stained-glass window—the church lives in the works of faithful who are planting the seeds of good deeds.

Together we are the church spreading the good news of God’s unconditional love for all of us and as we spread the good deeds, The Church as the Tree of Life flourishes.

John writes in Revelations

. . . let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

                  12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

                  14 Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.

 

The message of the Tree of Life concludes with the promise of eternal life along side God and his lamb, Jesus Christ.

Closing prayer:

Dear patient and loving Father,

 

We see your message

as shared in a magnificent window

teaching us about living faith.

 

We read The Word

in the books of the Bible

seeking wisdom to live faith-filled lives.

 

We join in Christian fellowship

through study and worship

working to strengthen our faith.

 

Open our hearts

to see evil

but choosing good.

 

Open our minds

to hear you speak

guiding our deeds.

Open our doors

to welcome others

seeking unconditional love.

 

May our lives

demonstrate our faith

accepting your grace,

sharing your story,

leading others to you

so they may know

hope, joy, peace and love. –Amen

 

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