Poem – the two trees.

Sin and shame came into the world
at the same time.
Adam and Eve ate fruit
from the tree
of the knowledge
of good and evil.

After that,
they were full of shame
about being naked,
about who they were,
about their very being,
and so they hid themselves
when God came around.

Before that,
they were
as they were created.
God saw them exactly
the way
God created them.
All was well.
They could be themselves
around God
without any
fear or embarrassment.

Thousands of years later,
Jesus
was placed on the cross,
a wooden pole
stuck in the ground
with a horizontal bar across it.
It was symbolically a tree,
and in fact,
it was symbolically
That tree,
that same tree
in the Garden.

Jesus tells us that
He is the fruit of that tree,
and that we are to eat it.
We are to consume
his flesh
and drink
his blood.

He is the antidote
for that first tree,
that first sin.
He is the cure
for what ails us.

When we eat the fruit
that is Jesus,
we are restored.
We have re-entered
the Garden.
He makes us able
to stand
before God,
as we are,
without sin or shame,
without fear or embarrassment.

Lifting up the snake

What is Jesus referring to when he says the following words to Nicodemus?

John 3:14

14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.”

He’s referring to when the Jews were wandering in the desert. Once again, they are impatient and irritable. Once again, some of them complain. The Lord sends snakes to kill many of them as a response. Here’s the story he is referring to –

Numbers 21:4-9
4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to bypass the land of Edom, but the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!” 6 Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died. 7 The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Intercede with the LORD so that He will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.

This time is different from the many other times they have complained. Often it is Moses who intervenes, but here the people admit that they have done wrong. Often Moses steps in to avert a mass destruction of all of Israel by the Lord when they are ungrateful. This time they realize they have sinned and ask Moses to intercede with the Lord for them. The Lord tells Moses to mount an image of a snake on a pole, but they have to look at it. They have to seek it out to recover.

What Jesus is saying is that in the same way and for the same reason, he is to be mounted on a pole. Only those who admit that they have sinned and seek him will be saved from death.

The apple and the snake.

snake apple

What came first, the apple or the snake?

Let’s look at the story in Genesis.

On the third day, God created trees that have seed-bearing fruit (including apples).

Genesis 1:11-12
11 Then God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.” And it was so. 12 The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

It was three days later – the sixth day, that God created land animals.

Genesis 1:24-25
24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Interestingly, immediately after land animals are created – including creatures that crawl on the ground (including snakes) God creates humans.

Genesis 1:26
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So there was the apple, then the snake, then humans.

The temptation and the tempter existed before us. We were babies in comparison. We didn’t have a chance.

We often forget that God made all things – the apple, the snake, and us. There is no “good” or “bad” when you think of it this way. God provided temptation and tempter because resisting them requires strength, intelligence, power, ability to learn. Not resisting is the mark of a lesser being – an animal. God wanted to see if we were better than animals.

We failed the test.
Adam and Eve didn’t fail for us.
They are us.
We are them.

We fail every time
we eat that extra piece of cake,
slack off from going to the gym
for a week
or a year
or a decade,
we share gossip at work,
we cut somebody off in our cars,
we cheat on our taxes
or our spouse.

We are Adam and Eve, and the world is our snake and our apple at the same time.

But note Adam and Eve weren’t destroyed. They were just given another chance to try again. They were sent out into that big world to learn, to get stronger. So are we. We get a lot of chances.

A life without temptation is not a virtuous life. You haven’t proven you are strong enough to resist the magnetic, hypnotic pull of temptation if you’ve never been exposed to it. Only if you are in it and yet above it are you truly righteous.

Poem – three days

Jonah was in the whale three days.
By himself.
In the dark.
He didn’t know if he’d ever get out.

Jesus was dead for three days.

His disciples thought
it was the end.

Sometimes the wait is forty years.

Sometimes longer.

Redemption isn’t immediate.
It isn’t guaranteed,
either.

Trust that whatever is happening
is meant to happen.
Trust that whatever
is going to happen
is meant to happen
too.

“But I’m not judgmental!”

People will say “but I’m not judgmental!” in the same way they will say “I’m not racist!” and then tell a racist joke.

They say they aren’t judgmental after saying that they are against someone because they are gay. I know a lady who refuses to go to a certain denomination of church because it has an openly gay bishop. She doesn’t go to any church, and is living with the father of her child. They are not married. So “being gay” is worse in her mind than what she is doing.

I asked this lady “What does Jesus say about homosexuality?” She stammered “You tell me”, because she didn’t know. The answer – “Nothing”. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, but He said a lot about not judging others.

He said “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.

He said to not point out the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but examine the plank in your own.

He said that whatever measure you use will be used against you.

The role of the Christian is to be like Jesus, and Jesus was about radical acceptance. Jesus took in all that came to him. We are to be examples of that love by how we live our lives. We are to be welcoming. We are to be servants.

We are not gatekeepers or guards. We don’t get to decide who is on or out. We don’t get to tell people off.

The funny part about being part of the Body of Christ is that we are members with prisoners and tax evaders and alcoholics and wife beaters and the average everyday jerk.

That is kind of hard to accept for some people. They think that being Christian is like being part of some elite social club, where only the cream of the crop get in.

Their logic goes something like this – “If Jesus lets “them” in, then that means we are just like them, and we don’t like the idea of being just like them, because they are sinners. We don’t want to be associated with them.”

Then the reality sets in.

Jesus came to heal the sick, not the well. We are all sinners. And we are all redeemed. There is room enough for us all. Once we become Christian, we don’t stop being us, with all our faults. We don’t start being perfect. We just start realizing that we are all loved the way we are because that is the way that God made us.

Jesus calls us when we are broken, not when we are perfect.

Jesus erases all lines of “them” and “us”. We are all one.

It is our job to make people want to come to this healing, this forgiveness, this acceptance. We are to welcome all in the name of Jesus. They won’t come if we are pointing fingers and calling down the wrath of heaven on them. Think back to what drew you to Jesus. I bet it wasn’t someone yelling at you that got you there.

This doesn’t mean that we need to water down the message of Jesus – not at all. This means that we are to live it.